by Patrick Baty
A colour reference system from the natural world
First published in 1814 and expanded in 1821 – long before the era of colour photography or print – Syme’s edition of Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours attempted to establish a universal colour reference system to help identify, classify and represent species from the natural world. Werner’s set of 54 colour standards was enhanced by Patrick Syme with the addition of colour swatches and further references from nature, taking the total number of hues classified to 110. The resulting resource proved invaluable not only to artists but also to zoologists, botanists, mineralogists and anatomists.
In Nature’s Palette this technicolour trove has, for the first time, been enhanced with the addition of illustrations of the animals, vegetables and minerals Werner referenced alongside each colour swatch and accompanied by expert text explaining the uses and development of colour standards in relation to zoology, botany, minerology and anatomy. This fully realized colour catalogue includes elegant contemporary illustrations of every animal, plant or mineral that Syme cited. Readers can see for themselves Tile Red in the Cock Bullfinch’s breast, Shrubby Pimpernel and Porcelain Jasper; or admire the Berlin Blue that Syme identified on the wing feathers of a Jay, in the Hepatica flower and in Blue Sapphire. Displays of contemporary collector’s cabinets of birds, butterflies, eggs, flowers and minerals are interspersed at intervals throughout the compendium, with individual specimens colour matched to colour swatches. Still a much-loved reference among artists, naturalists and everyone fascinated by colour today, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours finds its fullest expression in this beautiful and comprehensive colour reference system.