Design: It has got to be red in bed

Design Lines
IN MARCH 1668 the young Isaac Newton spent his first stipend as a Fellow of Trinity, Cambridge, on redecorating his college rooms.

"New cushions, chairs, bedspreads and curtains were almost all dominated by crimson. He surrounded himself with the colour, and it was a fixation that lasted into his old age. In a list of possessions drawn up after his death, there are recorded "a crimson mohair bed complete with case curtains of crimson Harrateen" and, in the dining room, "a crimson settee". Other listed items included crimson drapes and valances in the bedroom, a crimson easy chair, and six crimson cushions in the back parlour".

Why Newton was so struck with the colour we will never know, but the obsession went back a long way. As a teenager in 1659 he had recorded in the Morgan notebook some three dozen recipes for dyes, mostly for shades of red. An example is "Take some of the clearest blood of a sheep, put it into a bladder and with a needle prick holes in the bottom of it. Then hang it up to dry in the sun and dissolve it in alum water as you have need".

Extract from Isaac Newton: the last sorceror by Michael White, published next month by Fourth Estate (pounds 8.99)