Jenny's Reviews > Color: A Natural History of the Palette

Color by Victoria Finlay
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May 13, 08

Read in May, 2008

Having an affinity for all things color, I was attracted to the cover of Color: A Natural History of the Palette while visiting the Met one afternoon about a year ago. I bought it and have been reading it for the past year.

I'm sad to say that I found the cover to be the best part of this book. The book wasn't bad, but it also was nowhere near great. Finlay sets about the task of researching the origins of the pigments of the paintbox: Ochre, Black & Brown, White, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo & Violet. For each color, she researches the historical beginnings of the colors, specifically trying to illuminate why each color is named the way it is (eg, Tyrian Purple, Indian Yellow, etc.). She does this by trekking across the globe to the points of interest in hopes of discovering the histories (and, sometimes, secrets) of the colors from the indigenous people who, in some cases, still use the time-honored traditions.

In some regards this book elaborates upon colors. In some regards this book is a travelogue. In yet other regards this book is part imagination: when Finlay is unable to find hard and fast facts about her subject, she will often say, "I imagine [this to be true]..."

I think, if I could, I would rate this book 2.5 stars. It is mildly interesting but, perhaps, a bit too long.
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