We Want the Colour Guide That Assisted Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle

We’re a pretty satisfied bunch, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t covetous. Sometimes we see things out there that we just must have. Cool Things We Want is an archive of those earthly desires.


(via) There’s something extraordinarily special and precious about Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours. The book was originally published in 1814, long before the invention of the photograph. It was based on the exacting hand-written notes and classifications of 18th century German mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner. Scottish artist Patrick Syme updated and added to Werner’s work, further codifying it as a collection of standards. It was used by artists and scholars as an exacting guide to colours during the 19th century explosion of scientific discovery. Among the many talents to have used the book as a reference was Charles Darwin, who took the book with him on his famous voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

Werner’s terminology lent both precision and lyricism to Darwin’s pioneering writings, enabling his readers to envision a world they would never see. Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a charming artifact from the golden age of natural history and global exploration. This beautiful pocket-size facsimile is certain to delight and inform a new generation of artists and scientists.

In addition to the pocket-sized version, Smithsonian Books also published a hard-cover of it last week. Naturally, we want one.

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