‘Nature’s Palette’ is a Color Reference System From the Natural World

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Nature's Palette, by Patrick Baty, the owner of Papers and Paints, a specialist paint business in London, with cover art by Daniel Streat of Visual Fields, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Patrick Syme's expansion of Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, a landmark reference book on color and its origins in nature.

Flipping through the pages, you'll be as inspired as Darwin when he researched the Galapagos and hopefully will make as resounding of an impact on you as the islands did on him. Whether you're a graphic designer, painter, botanist, a casual lover of nature, or all of the above, these pages almost sing with inspiration. The color range is impeccable, and it's beyond fascinating to see how many different shades of one color can be found naturally in our world. It's one thing to sift through a digital swatch, but there's a whole new level of craft when finding out which colors are found in each part of our ecosystem and environment.

First published in 1814, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a taxonomically organized guide to color in the natural world. Compiled by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner, the book was expanded and enhanced in 1821 by Patrick Syme, who added color swatches and further color descriptions, bringing the total number of classified hues to 110. The resulting resource has been invaluable not only to artists and designers but also to zoologists, botanists, mineralogists, anatomists, and explorers, including Charles Darwin on the famous voyage of the Beagle.

NATURE’S PALETTE makes this remarkable volume available to today’s readers, and is now fully enhanced with new illustrations of all the animals, plants, and minerals Werner referenced alongside each color swatch. Readers can see “tile red” in a piece of porcelain jasper, the breast of a cock bullfinch, or a Shrubby Pimpernel. They can admire “Berlin blue” on a piece of sapphire, the Hepatica flower, or the wing feathers of a jay. Interspersed throughout the book are lavish feature pages displaying cases of taxidermy, eggs, shells, feathers, minerals, and butterflies, with individual specimens cross-referenced to the core catalog.

Patrick Baty is the author of The Anatomy of Colour and the owner of Papers and Paints, a specialist paint business in London.

Project Credits

By Patrick BatyContributions by Elaine Charwat, Peter Davidson, André Karliczek, and Giulia Simonini