Proto-Pantone: 800-Page Color Palette Guide Book Hand-Drawn in 1600s

This vast volume full of mixed watercolor swatches and other illustrations elaborating explains the art and science of combining waters and colors to create a huge array of tones, tints, shades and hues.

color palette guide book

historical tone hue guide

Created by artist  A. Boogert, this Dutch book is one-of-a-kind, a unique handmade production designed to educate students and artists about how to mix, make and deploy individual colors and color schemes. The entire work is thoroughly indexed and each process described in impressive detail.

historical dutch watercolor swatches

Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel considers it a comprehensive coloring guide ahead of its time. “I encountered this Dutch book from 1692 in a French database today and it turns out to be quite special. For one thing, no Dutch scholar appears to have published on it, or even to know about it. Moreover, the object is special because it provides an unusual peek into the workshop of 17th-century painters and illustrators.”

dutch black white swatches

More from the aforementioned scholar: “In the 17th century, an age known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, this manual would have hit the right spot. It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes. Remarkably, because the manual is written by hand and therefore literally one of a kind, it did not get the reach among painters – or attention among modern art historians – it deserves.”

dutch book cover intro

If you want to see the volume yourself: Aix-en-Provence, Bibliothèque municipale/Bibliothèque Méjanes, MS 1389 (1228). Luckily, the entire book can be viewed here, in hi-res, zoomable images. Here is a description of the book. Thanks to the internet, this single-run work now finally has a shot at the global audience for which it was intended (via Colossal).