Finlay, Victoria. Color: a Natural History of the Palette. Ballantine Books, 2002.
Reason read: April is fashion month and whenever I think of fashion, I think of color.
To research the history of color is brilliant like a box of sixty-four. Who, for example, has thought about from where ochre originated? According to Finlay, ochre is the first color(s) of paint. I did not know that and to be totally honest, nor have I ever thought about ochre in this way. [My only thoughts in ochre were to be confused about what shade of yellow, red, or brown it is supposed to be.] Did you ever wonder what the HB on a pencil meant? Hardness and blackness. How about the origin of the phrase, “cut through all this red tape”? Who knew? Apparently, Finlay. That’s who. She took the time to travel the globe looking for answers about color: Australia for ochre, England for black and brown, China for white, Chile for red, Italy for orange, India for yellow,…I wanted to make a map of all her travels. On the heels of reading Travels in a Thin Country I couldn’t stop comparing Sara Wheeler’s adventure to that of Victoria Finlay.
There is a fair amount of humor in Color. To see what I mean, find the section where Finlay describes the interesting practice of boiling cow urine after the bovine have been fed a steady diet of mango leaves for two weeks straight.
As another aside, I got a little excited when I saw Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s name in the index. My Natalie connection is that she put Lawrence’s daughter’s poem, “If No One Every Marries Me” to music. I need to thank Finlay for bringing the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner to my attention. ‘Waves Breaking Against Wind’ is a painting I identify with in a strong way.
Author fact: At the time of publication, Finlay was living in Hong Kong (according to the dust jacket).
Book trivia: Color includes a section of photographs…in color! I guess black and white wouldn’t necessarily work for a book about color…
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Color for a textile designer.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 116). In the index Color is incorrectly listed on page 1216.