First published in 1814, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a taxonomic guide to colour which been cherished by naturalists and anthropologists for over two centuries. In the late 1790’s Abraham Gottlob Werner devised his own standardised colour scheme, which allowed the writer to describe even the subtlest of chromatic differences with consistent terminology. His scheme was then adapted by an Edinburgh flower painter, Patrick Syme, who traced the actual minerals described by Werner, and used them to create the colour charts found in the book. In the pre-photographic age, almost all visual details had to be captured using the written word, and scientific observers could not afford any ambiguity in their descriptions. These included Charles Darwin, for whom Werner’s Nomenclature was an indispensable tool during his seminal voyage on the Beagle. Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a charming artefact from the age of explorers, which continues to be treasured by artists and scientists alike.
Review: ‘This is a fascinating historic document that grabs the attention much more than you would expect.’ The Artist
Author Biography: Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-817) was an eminent mineralogist and geologist. His 1774 book On the External Characteristics of Minerals included a classification of colours which was widely used by natural philosophers until well into the 19th century. Patrick Syme (1774-845) was an Edinburgh painter and art teacher. He was introduced to Werner’s system of colours by the great Scottish naturalist Robert Jameson, a former student of Werner who went on to tutor the young Charles Darwin. Jameson used mineral samples to reconstruct Werner’s colours, and these formed the basis of Syme’s colour swatches, which are faithfully reproduced in this book.