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17th Century Color Manual Finally Gets Its Due

A handwritten Dutch manuscript from 1692 offers a detailed guide to every hue imaginable. (Sorry, Pantone.)

In 1692, a Dutch artist set about creating a comprehensive guide to color. Centuries before Pantone made color-matching anything a breeze, A. Boogert’s painstakingly detailed manuscript, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, detailed exactly how an artist could achieve every color imaginable.


Spanning hundreds of delicately handwritten pages, the tome provides a glimpse into the world of the 17th century painter’s workshop. Boogert describes, for example, how to properly mix watercolors of every tone and hue. And the beautiful catalog of watercolor swatches reads like a proto-Pantone Color Guide. (Surely Boogert would have had some thoughts on Color of the Year.)

Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian in the Netherlands, spotted scans of the book in a French scholarly database and posted it to his blog a few days ago.

He writes:

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. Remarkably, because the manual is written by hand and therefore literally one of a kind, it did not get the ‘reach’ among painters –or attention among modern art historians–it deserves.

View the book here.

[H/T: Colossal]

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.