Many creatives who love colour today focus on representing and analysing colours found in the natural world. From landscape colour palettes to true Pantone matches, polychromatic forms align and express the colours around us. New technologies have made this job easier than ever, but the practice has been popular for centuries. Abraham Gottlob Werner's 19th-century work Nomenclature of Colours is a notable example.
Colour nomenclature is an important reference for artists, scientists, naturalists and anthropologists. Intricately rendered guides show the rich colours of the world divided into different tones. The picture only shows a small sample, each product is handwritten with the name of the flower (such as "Arterial Blood Red" and "Velvet Black") and a serial number. But what makes the book famous is its poetic description of where each sound is found in nature.
For example, did you know that in addition to having the same name, "Apple Green" is clearly marked on the "bottom of the green butterfly's wing"? And does “Prussian blue,” a colour still popular in painting today, cause “a nice stain on the wing of the wing”? These books allowed scientists and curious observers of the past to study their environments like never before.
Werner's colour nomenclature was developed in 1814 by the German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner, the Scottish painter Patrick Syme, and the Scottish naturalist Robert Jameson. People from various professions have used this technology, but it has proven to be very powerful as a research tool with the naturalist Charles Darwin perhaps its most famous reader. Werner's Colour Nomenclature may seem like a thing of the past, but Smithsonian Books recently decided to republish his beloved work.