Classification comes in many forms and on many topics…and in many colors. This interesting topic came to us from The Washington Post in their article, “This ‘color bible’ informed Darwin (and inspired some seriously pricey paint).”

During Charles Darwin’s time on the HMS Beagle’s naturalist, he collected more than 1,500 animal and plant specimens and took endless notes. His observations honed his  scientific skills and informed his theory of evolution. Considering this was in the 1830s, color was a bit of a challenge. There were no Polaroids or digital image capturing at that time. Darwin used Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours to help identify and classify his discoveries.

The 1814 color guide was inspired by German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner and written by Scottish artist Patrick Syme. It was by all rights a taxonomy of the colors found in the natural world. With hand-tinted swatches of 108 colors along with names and examples of where they could be found in nature, Darwin was able to record his observations with more detail.

Even with Pantone in existence, Werner’s Nomenclature is still relevant today with a new collection, Colour by Nature, from Farrow & Ball paint.

Melody K. Smith

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