• 05.06.14

This 700-Page Catalog Of Color Was Created Nearly 3 Centuries Before Pantone

An ancient manuscript shows all the colors of the rainbow and more.

The Pantone Color Guide was first published in 1963 as a way to help graphic artists standardize and match colors. But Pantone’s founder was 271 years late in creating the world’s definitive color palette. In 1692, Dutch artist A. Boogert created a 700-page tome titled Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau. The manuscript was uncovered by Erik Kwakkel, a Medieval historian. As Kwakkel writes on his blog:


In over 700 pages of handwritten Dutch, the author, who identifies himself as A. Boogert, describes how to make watercolour paints. He explains how to mix the colours and how to change their tone by adding “one, two or three portions of water”. To illustrate his point he fills each facing page with various shades of the colour in question. To top it he made an index of all the colours he described, which in itself is a feast to look at.

In fact, until Kwakkel came along, not a single art historian seemed to know the book existed. But fear not, Pantone. Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau isn’t quite formidable competition, seeing as there’s only one copy.

H/t to Colossal.

About the author

Jennifer Miller is the author of The Year of the Gadfly (Harcourt, 2012) and Inheriting The Holy Land (Ballantine, 2005). She's a regular contributor to Co.Create.