A Pre-Pantone Guide to Colors: Dutch Book From 1692 Documents Every Color Under the Sun

In 1963, the Pan­tone cor­po­ra­tion began pub­lish­ing a bi-year­ly col­or guide, which divides and cat­e­go­rizes every col­or under the sun. The aston­ish­ing­ly ubiq­ui­tous guide is an essen­tial tool for design­ers of every stripe, from a fash­ion guru fig­ur­ing out what col­or to high­light in her fall line to the guy in charge of cre­at­ing a col­or palette for the inte­ri­or of a new Boe­ing-787.

Twice a year, Pan­tone, along with a shad­owy cabal of col­orists from around the world, meet in a Euro­pean city and, with the secre­cy of the Vat­i­can choos­ing a new pope, they select the col­or of the sea­son.

They are the rea­son why you paint­ed your kitchen Wasabi Green a cou­ple years ago and why, whether you want to or not, you’ll be wear­ing Radi­ant Orchid next year. Slate did a great write up about the whole con­fus­ing process a while back.

Over 250 years before the Col­or-Indus­tri­al Com­plex reared its head, a mys­te­ri­ous Dutch artist also detailed every col­or in the spec­trum, only he did it all by hand. Known by the snick­er-induc­ing name of A. Boogert, the author set out to demon­strate how to mix water­col­or paint and how to manip­u­late the paint’s val­ue by adding water. Yet he approached his task with a stag­ger­ing lev­el of detail and depth; the result­ing book — Traité des couleurs ser­vant à la pein­ture à l’eau — is over 700 pages. It’s about as thor­ough a col­or guide as one could imag­ine in a world with­out col­or print­ers.

The book was large­ly for­got­ten, gath­er­ing dust at the Bib­lio­thèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France until Dutch art his­to­ri­an Erik Kwakkel, who trans­lat­ed the intro­duc­tion, post­ed selec­tions from the book on his blog. Herr Boogert appar­ent­ly intend­ed the book to be edu­ca­tion­al for aspir­ing artists. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, only a few artists at the time ever got a chance to see the one-of-a-kind book.

You can see scans of the book above. And if you want to more, click here to see them in high res­o­lu­tion.

For more intrigu­ing man­u­scripts, be sure to fol­low Erik Kwakkel’s Tum­blr here.

pre pantone

via This is Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Goethe’s The­o­ry of Col­ors: The 1810 Trea­tise That Inspired Kandin­sky & Ear­ly Abstract Paint­ing

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Caught in the Act of Cre­ation, 1926

When Respect­ed Authors, from Goethe to Hen­ry Miller, Try Their Hand at Paint­ing

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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