A naturalist's color palette, circa 1686


From Richard Waller, "A Catalogue of Simple and Mixt Colours with a Specimen of Each Colour Prefixt Its Properties"
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 6, 1686/1687 (London, 1688)

Noting the lack of a standard for colors in natural philosophy, and inspired by a similar table published in Stockholm, Richard Waller indicated that his "Table of Physiological Colors Both Mixt and Simple" would permit unambiguous descriptions of the colors of natural bodies. To describe a plant, for example, one could compare it to the chart and use the names found there to identify the colors of the bark, wood, leaves, etc. Similar applications of the information collected in the chart might also extend to the arts and trades, he suggested.

Read more about Waller's color system in The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Sarah Lowengard.

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By CS Shelton (not verified) on 24 Mar 2010 #permalink

Definitely fun, and a great relief from all the on-line harangues! Would that we could see through different eyes on occasion.
What a lucky find your post was today!

Check out if you can Frank J. Reilly's palette of color control.

Grumbacher produced his full line of neutral grays but I don't know if they still do. At one time half the students at the famed Art Students League in NY were his.

By Michael Antebi (not verified) on 24 Mar 2010 #permalink

Thanks for the link to my book -- I hope your readers realize that this is only half of Waller's chart. If you look at the chart where it's set into the text, you can see both parts.


*The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe Columbia University Press, 2006, ¶14

Unfortunately, given that the blog can only handle 510 pixels across, showing the entire thing would have made it so small as to be illegible. Hopefully everyone will check it out at your book! :)