20th-Century Book of 143 Different Color Shades Shown Through Hand-Dye Bird Feathers

Shades on Feathers Sample Book

Throughout history, people have admired bird feathers for their exquisite beauty. In certain eras, it was even fashionable to wear feathers, though this sometimes meant acquiring rare and endangered avian species. But due to the cost and difficulty of finding the right color, it became increasingly common to dye white feathers to a desired hue. The results of this process can be seen in a rare sample book from the 20th century entitled Shades on Feathers, which neatly compiles 143 bird feathers in every color of the rainbow as well as instructions on how to achieve their displayed shade.

Produced by The Bayer Company in the early 1900s, this artifact is extremely unique and features a collection of antique feathers in relatively good condition (considering their fragility). It is estimated that the book was created between 1913 and 1918; this was prior to the Migratory Bird Act Treaty, which banned hunting of protected migratory bird species.

Each page in this carefully preserved book includes a selection of hand-dyed feathers secured to the paper by a white insert. These examples are accompanied by a box of text which instructs readers on how to reproduce the hue with their own feathers and dying supplies. It even recommends that people begin by cleaning feathers with a lukewarm solution of olive oil soap and ammonia. The method of dying feathers is based on the findings of the British chemist William Henry Perkin, who discovered how to dye materials mauve and sparked a boom of dye manufacturers.

The Science History Institute has digitized all of the pages of this book, which you can view for free via their website.

A 2oth-century sample book called Shades on Feathers illustrates how to dye white bird feathers.

Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book

It includes 143 feathers in a rainbow spectrum of colors that were each hand dyed.

Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book

The book instructs people on how to dye white feathers into a variety of hues.

Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book Shades on Feathers Sample Book

h/t: [Open Culture]

All images via The Bayer Company, Inc and the Science History Insitute.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.
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