Have you ever thought of the meaning we assign colors? They can describe how we feel and how we look. They can explain our moods. Intense color and even lack of color all has significance. And then there is the history behind colors. Where they come from, how we make them. And the social aspect. Colors have prompted men to voyage far and wide for the most rare. Some colors were so prized that only kings can wear it. I collect colors, or rather the meaning of colors. Well, I collect books about colors and have a growing shelf of them. I don't think I've ever shared a list of colors before, so here are thirteen of them.
The Story of Colour in Textiles by Susan Kay-Williams -- "From pre-history to the current day, the story of dyed textiles in Western Europe brings together the worlds of politics, money, the church, law, taxation, international trade and exploration, fashion, serendipity and science."
On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William H. Gass -- "On Being Blue is a book about everything blue—sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things—and about everything else. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass, among contemporary American writers, can do." (I read this not too long ago, and I swear I am still going to write about it . . .).
The Primary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux -- "A fascinating cultural history, these splendid essays on the three primary colors--blue, yellow, and red--extend to the artistic, literary, linguistic, botanical, cinematic, aesthetic, religious, scientific, culinary, climatological, and emotional dimensions of each color."
The Secondary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux -- "A collection of three erudite meditations on purple, orange, and green--the second volume in a trilogy including The Primary Colors and Black & White--encompasses poetry, song, fable, gossip, and a gallimaufry of trivia."
Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments by Bernard Guineau -- "From the painted caves at Lascaux, 40,000 years old, to the medieval cloth industry to today's computerized chemistry, this engaging book surveys the history of dyes and pigments-in a work as rich, varied, and colorful as a box of crayons."
Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay -- "Journalist Finlay travels the world in search of ancient sources of natural colors, recounting along the way the surprising chemical processes by which everything from stones to insects to mummies have been transformed into precious pigments for paint, dyes, and varnish. In pursuit of art's first color, ochre, Finlay goes to Australia, offering, as she does in each location, an agile and entertaining then-and-now look at a place, a people, and a color and its uses and acquired meaning" (Booklist)
Interaction of Color by Josef Albers -- ". . . a masterwork in art education. Conceived as a handbook and teaching aid for artists, instructors, and students, this influential book presents Albers’s singular explanation of complex color theory principles.
The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky by Susan Melloy -- "In this invigorating mix of natural history and adventure, artist-naturalist Ellen Meloy uses turquoise—the color and the gem—to probe deeper into our profound human attachment to landscape."
The Alchemy of Paint: Art, Science and Secrets from the Middle Ages by Spike Bucklow -- "The Alchemy of Paint is a critique of the modern world, which Spike Bucklow sees as the product of seventeenth-century ideas about science. In modern times, we have divorced color from its origins, using it for commercial advantage. Spike Bucklow shows us how in medieval times, color had mystical significance far beyond the enjoyment of shade and hue."
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield -- "In the sixteenth century, one of the world's most precious commodities was cochineal, a legendary red dye treasured by the ancient Mexicans and sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune. As the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans joined the chase for cochineal -- a chase that lasted for more than three centuries -- a tale of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolds."
Indigo: Egyptian Mummies to Blue Jeans by Jenny Balfour-Paul -- ". . . tells fascinating stories from the history of the dye, such as the recent discovery of 17th-century Spanish galleons in the Caribbean carrying hundreds of chests of raw indigo, which the author successfully used to dye 21st-century fabrics."
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World by Simon Garfield -- "In 1856 eighteen-year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color. In a "witty, erudite, and entertaining" (Esquire) style, Simon Garfield explains how the experimental mishap that produced an odd shade of purple revolutionized fashion, as well as industrial applications of chemistry research."
Colors: What They Mean and How to Make Them by Anne Varichon -- "Archaeologist and ethnologist Anne Varichon takes the reader on a fascinating journey that examines not only the variety and use of natural colorants—and how to reproduce them today—but also their symbolism and mythology. From Confucian China to medieval Europe, from the Papuans to the Inuit, she travels across the centuries and around the world in this absorbing, and often surprising, cultural history of the sources and meanings of color."
I really do find reading about colors fascinating and am always on the look out for books on colors. I work with hand dyed fibers and textiles when I can with my needlework. And if I had a dream job that I could do and make a living with--it would be working with textiles, maybe dyeing fibers or linens. How cool would that be? I guess I will settle for reading about them. If you have a book about color (or color in relation to textiles or fibers) please do share!