Blue-Sky Thinking: The Influence of the Blue Ray of the Sunlight (1877)

Originally published in 1876, this book is remarkable not only for being the first major work in contemporary chromotherapy, but also for its unique appearance. True to the ideas held within — that blue light is bearer of unique and special properties — the book is entirely printed with blue ink on blue paper. Its author, a retired US Civil War general named Augustus James Pleasonton, proposed that isolating blue wavelengths from the sun could benefit the growth of both flora and fauna, and also help to eradicate disease in humans. The science was shaky at best. Believing that plants flourished in springtime because of the increased blueness of the sky, he patented special greenhouses with blue filters on the glass which he claimed led to particularly abundant grape harvests. From grapes he moved on to pigs and cows, also claiming a vast improvement in growth.

Although his ideas were not taken seriously by the scientific establishment it did lead to what became know as the "Blue-glass Craze". Farmers bought the glass by the truck loads, people put it in their spectacles, and baby incubators were clad in the stuff. Echoing similar sentiments about viral trends we find today, of the new fad an exasperated Boston Globe wrote: “Indeed we hope the epidemic will be violent and proportionally short. It is amusing to see people making fools of themselves, but it soon grows wearisome.” The newspaper's wishes came largely true as the craze didn't last for more than a couple of years, though it did give birth to the niche field of chromotherapy. It also gave birth to similar publications, the following year Seth Pancoast bringing out his Blue and Red Light, or, Light and its Rays as Medicine (1877), which echoed Pleasonton's radical design, the pages of blue printed words enclosed within a red border (see below).