Werner's Nomenclature of Colours: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts (Hardcover)

Werner's Nomenclature of Colours: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts By Patrick Syme, Abraham Gottlob Werner (Illustrator) Cover Image


A taxonomic guide to the colors of the natural world, with 13 palettes and 110 color swatches, cherished by artists and scientists for more than 2 centuries

”Before Pantone, there was Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours”—Architectural Digest

This beautiful pocket-size facsimile is a charming artifact from the golden age of natural history and global exploration. In the pre-photographic age, almost all visual details had to be captured via the written word, and scientific observers could not afford ambiguity in their descriptions.

In the late 18th century, mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner devised a standardized color scheme that allowed him to describe even the subtlest of chromatic differences with consistent terminology. His scheme was then adapted by an Edinburgh flower painter, Patrick Syme, who used the actual minerals described by Werner to create the color charts in the book, enhancing them with examples from flora and fauna.

Werner's handbook became an invaluable resource for naturalists and anthropologists, including Charles Darwin, who used it to identify colors in nature during his seminal voyage on the HMS Beagle. Werner's terminology lent both precision and lyricism to Darwin's pioneering writings, enabling his readers to envision a world they would never see.

This new facsimile edition complete with ribbon marker brings the classic work back to life.

About the Author

Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817) was a mineralogist and geologist at the mining school in Freiberg, Saxony. In his 1774 book On the External Characteristics of Fossils, he established a classification system to describe the colors of both fossils and minerals. Patrick Syme (1774-1845), an Edinburgh painter and art teacher, reconstructed Werner's colors by consulting actual minerals, paired the hues with examples from plant and animal life, and created the system of color swatches and descriptions that form the basis of this book.

Praise For…

“Werner’s system has long since been superseded by exact but rather bloodless alphanumeric versions from companies like Pantone and Munsell. Nevertheless, what Werner’s Nomenclature lacks in practicality it more than makes up for as a trove of beauty, mystery, and unintentional poetry. Where else could you find, for example, that the precise shade of both the neck ruff of the golden pheasant and the belly of the warty newt is Orpiment Orange? Or discover a name—Oil Green—for the waxy green hue of the Nonpareil apple?”—Architectural Digest

“The 1814 book has now been republished by Smithsonian Books as a pocket-sized guide, providing a historic connection to vivid colors found in the field for a future generation of artists, scientists, and curious naturalists.”—Colossal

“Specimens could degrade, paintings could fade, and color photography was still a far-off dream, but with Syme’s help Darwin could encode the colors of an unfamiliar world—and carry them safely home.” —New Yorker

Product Details
ISBN: 9781588346216
ISBN-10: 1588346218
Publisher: Smithsonian Books
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 80
Language: English