I am currently reading "THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS" by Laura Purcell. Ever since I read "THE SILENT COMPANIONS" I have been a huge fan of hers. It is not just the style of her writing, very metaphoric and atmospheric. It is not that she builds suspense slowly, it is not just the fact that her stories and characters have a profound depth to them. It is also that I always learn something terribly interesting from her books. In particular things from the era in which she writes.

With "THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS" I learnt of the terrible medical condition known as "Phossy Jaw", which was the bane of individuals who worked in the production of matchsticks. Early in the nineteenth century it was discovered that adding white phosphorous to match heads would make them easier to ignite. The addition of this phosphorous however led to the ailment known as "Phossy Jaw"

The phosphorous vapor would eat away the bones of the jaw and teeth. Horrible yes, but one of those little things that I probably would have never heard of having not read this book.

I have left a link here to the Royal College of Surgeons of England website. There is a fascinating, if a little macabre, article written by Susan Isaac about the case and treatment of a young girl who unfortunately contracted the disease working eight hour shifts in the packing department of a New York match factory for two and a half years.

It strikes me as odd that it took the International Berne Convention so long to ban this procedure that directly led to this industrial disease. As always it seems that money and profit were more important at the time.

Here is the link for those interested - https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/library-and-publications/library/blog/phossy-jaw-and-the-matchgirls/

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