Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Color dictionaries

[Robert Ridgway, Color Standards and Color Nomenclature (1912). Available from the Internet Archive.]

In Smithsonian Magazine, How Red Is Dragon’s Blood?, a piece by Daniel Lewis on color dictionaries, with emphasis on the work of Robert Ridgway. A sample:

Color dictionaries were designed to give people around the world a common vocabulary to describe the colors of everything from rocks and flowers to stars, birds, and postage stamps. . . .

These color dictionaries have a deep, personal and complicated history — even though they emerged from a strong desire to quantify the world, as taxonomic publications tried to do in the 19th and early 20th centuries. . . . We don’t use them anymore because in book form they would be impossibly unwieldy: There are now more named colors than you can shake a dragon at — far more than would fit into a single volume. But Ridgway’s legacy lives on — his book evolved into the Pantone color chart relied upon by graphic designers, house paint creators, interior designers, fashion mavens, flag makers, and anyone looking to identify colors.
How accurate the colors in the Internet Archive scan, I can’t say. But the colors are at least distinguishable. In the Google Books scan, Mikado Orange and Cadmium Orange are nearly identical.

A tenuously related post
Mug shot (Pantone Orange 021)

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