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This is What an Encyclopedia of Paint Colors Looked Like 300 Years Ago

And there's a very strange reason that it never received recognition in its time.

antique encyclopedia of paint colors
Photography by: Erik Kwakkel

Any painter knows that mixing watercolors is an art in and of itself. The color produced depends on what is meticulously layered. One Dutch illustrator, known simply as A. Boogert, devised a comprehensive guide to watercolors in the 17th century — and it's kind of incredible.

 

Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel drew attention to this handwritten encyclopedia, which was discovered by Kwakkel through exploration of a French database, via his Tumblr blog. The book was authored by Boogert in 1692, and few Dutch scholars appear to have known about it previously.

 

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antique encyclopedia of paint colors
Photography by: Erik Kwakkel

Amazingly, the book is more than 700 pages long, describing the various ways in which one could mix watercolors. Boogert illustrated his points by painting the shades on the pages. What's more, he amassed an entire index of every color identified.

 

"In the 17th century, an age known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, this manual would have hit the right spot," Kwakkel, who lectures at Leiden University in the Netherlands, writes on his page. "It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes." The guide did not receive the recognition it was worthy of at the time, however, because it was written by hand. Which, really, is mind-boggling: most of us in the present century would agree the book is all the more impressive due to its handcrafted origins. We can't even imagine the dedication required for such a project. Clearly, Boogert took pride in his work — and justly so.

 

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