Can you close your eyes and picture the color Berlin blue? Most people will not immediately know that among the many shades of blue, Berlin blue is the color of the Hepatica flower or the wings of a blue jay. Over centuries, artists and naturalists alike have shared an interest in the many varied hues to be found in the natural world—from Berlin blue to tile red. The newly released Nature’s Palette: A Color Reference System from the Natural World by Patrick Baty is a tome devoted to reviving the color theory work of the early 19th century for a modern sensibility.
The book is based on Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours—a taxonomy of naturally-occurring hues compiled by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner. The influential work was expanded to include swatches for 110 colors by Patrick Syme in an 1821 edition. Nature's Palette draws from the categorizations and illustrations of its 19th-century forebears. The history of color has always been multidisciplinary—from the decorative arts to the works of biologists such as Darwin. As such, the book features over 1,000 color illustrations which are drawn from works on geology, mineralogy, biology, and more.
Nature's Palette is introduced by Patrick Baty, a British expert on historical paints and color usage. On the importance of the 1821 edition of Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, Baty tells My Modern Met, “The importance of Syme's work is that it is the first in a long chain of books on color that can be traced from the early 19th century through to the British Standard range of paint colors that was published in 1972. Each was to influence the use of color in decoration—either directly or indirectly.”
To purchase Nature’s Palette: A Color Reference System from the Natural World and learn more about the colors populating the natural world, head to Bookshop.org. For a quick background on color theory, check out My Modern Met's helpful article on the subject. Scroll down for a sneak peek at some illustrations included in the volume.