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Published: 04 May 2019

By Andy Ross

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Werner's Nomenclature of Colours

The book Charles Darwin used to describe colours in nature on his voyage on the HMS Beagle has just arrived for the library!

The rather splendidly-named Werner's Nomenclature of Colours adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy, and the Arts is a wonderful reprint of a book by Patrick Syme which, taking the work done by his teacher, Robert Jameson, in matching Abraham Gottlob Werner's descriptions of fossils and minerals with the actual specimens, produced colour charts of the various items. Syme also included references to animals and vegetables, and this book was widely used by artists and naturalists, including Darwin.

It is a great book to leaf through. The descriptions of the colours are extraordinary; for example, not only is there a colour for the "Back Parts of a Gentian Flower" (page 33, China Blue, to be specific) but there is also a colour (picture right) for the "Eyes of the largest Flesh Fly" (page 44, Brownish Orange). Hours of fun to be had perusing this volume, methinks.