a prison for colours
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Pantone. The bible for colours. Were there any colours before pantone existed? Our grandparents say that there were. There was a time when colours didn’t live cooped up, classified with codes of letters and numbers, in a concentration camp. There was a time when rainbows made the world stop and colours took their names from nature, countries and gods.

In 1692 a Dutchman who signed as A. Boogert wrote a book about the art of mixing water colours. And he didn’t just write. In fact, he experimented with different mixtures of paints and water. He neatly painted and classified more than 800 examples. The book was written as a guide to colours, but there was a small yet insurmountable problem: as there was only one copy of his hand-made book, it couldn’t be used as a colour guide.

What we now know as the Pantone colour guide was first published in 1963. But the Dutchman A. Boogert’s watercolour guide does show how much deceit there is in the current fever to “privatise” colours. Because there was a colour guide 300 years before Pantone was created. Now it is kept in Aix-en-Provence’s Méjanes library and you can see it at no charge:



In order to measure and name different sky blues, in 1789 the physicist Horace- Benedict de Saussure and the naturalist Alexander von Humboldt invented their Cyanometer, which is as beautiful as it is simple. Taking the sky at Geneva, Chamonix and Mont Blanc as its basis, they obtained 52 different blues between white and black by mixing water with Prussian blue ink. They put the 52 blues together on a circle and that was their device for measuring the degrees of the sky’s blues. They discovered that the different degrees of blue and transparency depended on the amount of vaporised water in the atmosphere and, so, their circle could also be used to measure the amount of vaporised water. Humboldt always took his Cyanometre with him when he travelled and he used it to measure the blueness of the sky in South America.