Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours

Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts
Abraham Gottlob Werner and Patrick Syme
Published by Natural History Museum

This classic taxonomic guide to the colours of the natural world was first published in 1814.

First published in 1814, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, a taxonomic guide to the colours of the natural world, has been cherished by artists and scientists alike for more than two centuries. Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a charming artifact from the golden age of natural history and global exploration.

In the late 18th century, mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner devised a standardised colour scheme that allowed him to describe even the subtlest of chromatic differences with consistent terminology. His scheme was then adapted by an Edinburgh flower painter, Patrick Syme, who used the actual minerals described by Werner to create the colour charts in the book, enhancing them with examples from flora and fauna.

In the pre-photographic age, almost all visual details had to be captured via the written word, and scientific observers could not afford ambiguity in their descriptions. Werner's handbook became an invaluable resource for naturalists and anthropologists, including Charles Darwin, who used it to identify colours in nature during his seminal voyage on the HMS Beagle. Werner’s terminology lent both precision and lyricism to Darwin’s pioneering writings, enabling his readers to envision a world they would never see.

This new pocket-sized facsimile edition brings the classic work back to life.

Published by The Natural History Museum
80 pages
Colour illustrations throughout
230 mm x 140 mm

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