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Over 300 Years Ago, An Artist Created And Documented Every Color You Can Think Of

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Thanks to Pantone, the contemporary authority on all things color, we have a way of documenting the chromatic flow -- all 2,100 hues it's gleaned from the visible ends of the rainbow. But artists have been recording the depths of color for much longer than Pantone's lifespan, mixing and melding pigments to create the violets, turquoises and ambers we ogle in art history books.


One such artist was A. Boogert, a man who created a massive manual on color nearly three centuries before Pantone ever came into being. Back in 1692, he crafted around 800 pages of handwritten and hand-painted pages under the title "Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau." Written in Dutch, the treatise was a painstaking trek through the tints and shades of every color you can think of. It was, as This Is Colossal speculates, probably the most informative color guide of its time.

We have Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel to thank for bringing the book to the internet's attention. Though he notes that someone else is currently conducting a PhD study on the 17th century publication, to be completed in 2015 at the University of Amsterdam. Here's what Kwakkel had to say about the archival gem:

"In the 17th century, an age known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, this manual would have hit the right spot. It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes. Remarkably, because the manual is written by hand and therefore literally one of a kind, it did not get the “reach” among painters -- or attention among modern art historians -- it deserves."

You can see the entire book online here, for those interested in peering deeper into the historical color records. Happy hunting!

All images courtesy of "Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l'eau" (1692)

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