Fascinating Book Described Thousands of Colors 271 Years Before Pantone


The incredibly comprehensive (and occasionally inspirational) Pantone Color Guide made its debut in 1963, but 271 years before Pantone began mixing 11 colors to match thousands of others, a Dutch author was busy mixing watercolors and creating a fascinating 700+ page guide entirely by hand.

The book was called the Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, and it was written in 1692 by a man who identifies himself in the book only as “A. Boogert.”


According to medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel — who, he is quick to point out, is not the first to stumble upon this great resource but can certainly be credited with bringing it to the attention of the Internet at large — the book was intended as an educational resource.

It was, in essence, a hand-written textbook on the creation of different colors using water, and meant to be studied by any and all painters and artists who would be fortunate enough to actually get their hands on it.

As to how many people that would actually be, well, seeing as it is one-of-a-kind and technology in the 1600s wasn’t exactly on par with the 21st century, it’s a safe bet few ever benefitted from this amazing resource.


Fortunately for us, that no longer has to be the case. Not only is the actual book a plane ride away at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France, it has also been painstakingly digitized in high res. You can view the entire thing here, and read a short description of the book here.

(via Colossal)

  • 123423423


  • David Liang

    Really cool

  • Cemal Ekin

    Anyone interested in color may benefit from reading these old resources. For a seminar I gave on color several years ago I referred to several such books, here are some references:
    M. E. Chevreul, The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors
    Goether (yes, that one), Theory of Colors

    On a more modern note, John Gage has several very good books. Mind you these are simply about “color” not color photography but there are very good insights in them.

  • Mark Davidson

    A work of staggering effort. I hope he enjoyed some small measure of reward.

  • Renato Murakami

    Quite impressive that some of those colors didn’t simply fade away or got completely destroyed by time… or perhaps it simply was restored?

  • Bolkey

    You’ll have to be a decicated student only to read the handwriting. From the example above I only can make out “klaerlightende spiegel der verf-konst; Florentijnsche sc??? roest” (clear lighting mirror of the art of painting; Florentin ??? rust). Most of the book’s pages are text only.

  • kieraeastedi321

    Jack . if you think Carrie `s st0ry is something, on
    tuesday I bought a brand new Lancia Straton since I been making $5165
    this-last/month and-also, $10k last munth . without a question it is the
    easiest work Ive ever had . I actually started six months/ago and almost
    immediately started bringin home more than $83… per/hr . browse around this
    site F­i­s­c­a­l­p­o­s­t­.­C­O­M­

  • Mark Dub

    I don’t understand.. shouldn’t there be a “lawsuit against pantone” part in this story? Weird…