Artists and designers have long struggled with describing and reproducing colors accurately and consistently. In fact, the first color swatchbook was created in 1814 by Scotsman Patrick Syme, a painter of flowers, based on the work of the acknowledged father of German geology, Abraham Gottlob Werner (17911817), who developed a color identification system for minerals.
Syme’s book, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, provides descriptive color names as well as where the colors could be found in nature. For example, Color 86, Arterial Blood Red, can be found on the head of the cock goldfinch, while Color 94, Veinous Blood Red can be seen on the musk flower or dark purple scabious.
A hardbound reproduction of the original book can be ordered from Smithsonian Books. If you’d like a wall mural, tote bag, shower curtain, coasters, or pillow covered with Werner’s info, see Society6.