Before there was the Pantone Matching System, there was Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts. According to the wrap around the cover, this was the book (not this specific edition or copy) that Charles Darwin took with him aboard the HMS Beagle on his journey to research species evolution and natural selection.
The book is a slim volume with wide margins (for notes?) and reproductions of paint chips and descriptions next to each of the colors as well as lengthier descriptions included in the text. It was the first known attempt to create a unified language for describing color for science and art using materials available in the animal, vegetable and mineral world available to folks in England and Scotland in 1821.
It’s interesting to see the range of colors and descriptions. So many of the color names live on today in the names of paint colors for art like Sap Green and Gamboge Yellow that I’m hardly surprised by the naming. That Gamboge is compared to the mineral Sulphur is very interesting though.
There’s some weird references to colors being the “sky blue of Werner” and such which is odd as if he couldn’t be bothered to add an actual sky blue suggesting he might have been a bit of a primadonna about his color palette.
Regardless of which colors were left out, whether they could not be found in the natural world of 19th century England, or because Werner was a bit of a fuss bucket, the book is fascinating and currently in reprint for less than $15.