This 300 Year Old Book Is a Guide to Every Paint Color Imaginable

Browse through color swatches from the 17th Century

A page from Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau

Long before paint swatches lined the walls of hardware stores, people were still fascinated by color. In 1692, one person from the Netherlands spent what must have been an eternity handwriting and hand-painting a stunning book detailing exactly how to make watercolors of different shades. 

The book caught the eye of Erik Kwakkel, a Medieval book historian from the Netherlands.

From Kwakkel’s 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 the 17th century, an age known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, this manual would have hit the right spot. It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes.

As the book was painstakingly handwritten, it’s unlikely that many people saw it when it was first created. But now all 700+ pages of the book (including the covers) have been scanned and can be viewed online at e-corpus, a collective digital library. 

[h/t This is Colossal]

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