I am doing a project on paint pigments. An obvious part of the introduction is the origins of the various pigment names.
I read in Wikipedia that:
"During the Roman Empire, the term minium could refer either to the pigment made from ground cinnabar or to the less expensive red lead. The name came from the river Minius in Iberia (now forming part of the Spanish-Portuguese border and known as Miño or Minho), located near the main Roman cinnabar mines."
Really? Pliny in Natural History (sometime before 79 AD) mentions the main mine to be in Sisapo in Spain. This is further south than Madrid. The River Minius is in Galicia in the northwest of Spain, and its southernmost limit is now the border with northern Portugal. It is hundreds of miles away. Why would you name a pigment after a geographic feature so far away, with no association to the mine?
Moreover, I can't find a primary reference for this coinage. Pliny doesn't mention it (although he does mention much confusion about the interchangeable names applied to several red pigments in the 1st century AD). Neither is this naming derivation mentioned by relatively modern writers such as Cennini (Il libro dell’arte, 1437), or really modern writers such as Fitzhugh in (Artist's Pigments, A handbook of their history and characteristics, Vol 1, Ed. R L Feller, 1986).
In fact, the only thing resembling a reference is a paper by Barnett, Miller & Pearce "Colour and art: A brief history of pigments" (Optics & Laser Technology 38 (2006) 445–453), where they state:
"Red lead is a form of lead oxide (Pb3O4) and is found as the mineral minium after the River Minius in northwest Spain."
They don't give a reference for this coinage either.
I don't claim to have checked every primary reference, textbook, PhD thesis or research paper in existence (although not for lack of trying. This search has been ongoing for over a month!). But unless someone can tell me otherwise, this naming of red lead after a river looks like a questionable conjecture that has somehow morphed into "fact".
Does anyone out there have any definitive information either way?
[The tags for this question are not much use. This is because I can't make up my own tags due to a lack of reputation so I had to use the least badly fitting tags already available. If a moderator wants to replace "Painting" with "Paint" and add "Pigment" and "Minium" to the tags, that would be really helpful.]