Anatto is a coloring fecula of a resinous nature extracted from the seeds of a tree very common in the West Indies, and which in height never exceeds 15 feet.
The Indians employ two processes to obtain the red fecula of these seeds. They first pound them and mix them with a certain quantity of water which in the course of 5 or 6 days favors the progress of fermentation. The liquid then becomes charged with the coloring part, and the superfluous moisture is afterwards separated by slow evaporation over the fire, or by the heat of the sun.
This consists in rubbing the seeds between the hands in a vessel filled with water. The coloring part is precipitated, and forms itself into a mass like a cake of wax: but if the red fecula thus detached, is much more beautiful than in the first process, it is less in quantity. Besides, as the splendor of it is too bright, the Indians are accustomed to weaken it by a mixture of red sandal wood.
_Use of Anatto._
The natives of the East India islands used formerly to employ anatto for painting their bodies etc. At present, it is employed in Europe for the purpose of dyeing. It is employed to give the first tint to woollen stuffs intended to be dyed red, blue, yellow and green, etc.
In the art of the varnisher it forms part of the composition of changing varnishes, to give a cold color to the metals to which these varnishes are applied.
_To Choose Anatto._
It ought to be chosen of a flame color, brighter in the interior part than on the outside, soft to the touch and of a good consistence. The paste of anatto becomes hard in Europe, and it loses some of its odor, which approaches near to that of violets.
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