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Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments by…

Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments (1999)

by François Delamare, Bernard Guineau (Author)

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Summary: This slim books gives this history of dyes and pigments, as well as some color chemistry and art history, starting with the earliest uses of ochers and charcoals on cave walls, and moving through today's wide spectrum of synthetic pigments for all conceivable uses.

Review: The best thing I can say about this book is that it was packed with pretty full-color pictures, from pictures of tapestries and mosaics to snippets of illuminated manuscripts to photos of pigment-containing pig bladders. The second-best thing I can say about this book is that it induced one of the best naps I've had in months. The writing style was dry and lifeless, tracking the historical path of pigment use without really telling us much of anything. Most of the book read like: "In the 15th century, red was produced mainly using blah, bling, and blah, but these proved to be too expensive, so blah and blah were gradually introduced instead." That's great, but a listing of the names of pigments doesn't really tell me all that much - it might be more interesting to an artist or art historian, but they probably wouldn't have had much need for this cursory introduction to the field. For the un-knowledgeable layperson (me), however, there wasn't a lot of redeeming features to the text. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Read Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay instead. At most, keep this one around as a picture supplement to that better-written and more thorough introduction to the topic. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Jun 22, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Delamare, FrançoisAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guineau, BernardAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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The world in which we live is teeming with color: the sky, earth, water, and fire all have distinct colors.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0810928728, Paperback)

In our overstimulated, color-saturated society it is easy to forget the impact of color in the dull world before cheap dyes and plastics. Colors is a delightful little book, highly illustrated and packed with intriguing information. It traces the history of dyes and pigments from cave paintings to modern textiles. The book's four sections cover the uses of color in ancient times; its development and refinement in the Middle Ages; the explosion of supply and demand after the Renaissance; and the triumph of industrial chemistry in synthesizing and inventing colors. Production processes often paralleled those of alchemy, giving an almost magical quality to colors. Dyes were expensive in medieval Europe and could increase the price of a cloth tenfold; thus color was used to indicate social status, with aristocrats in bright robes standing out against the drab mob. Since antiquity, writers have compiled technical manuals on dyeing and pigment manufacture, often using more ancient texts, so that a great many antique recipes and techniques have been preserved. We learn, for example, how Indian yellow was made from a concentrated extract of the urine of cows fed exclusively on mango leaves (which was not healthy for the cows). Every page of the book has interesting tidbits of information, such as the derivation of blue jeans (from bleu de Genes, Genoa blue, a form of indigo). Clearly written and well-designed, Colors reminds us of the powerful ways color permeates our lives. --John Stevenson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:29 -0400)

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Colour is all around us, we take it for granted as a naturally occurring element of all things. This work surveys the history of dyes and pigments, the invention of new colours, and the industries that were fuelled by them.

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