Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette Later Printing Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 172 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812971422
ISBN-10: 0812971426
Why is ISBN important?
This bar-code number lets you verify that you're getting exactly the right version or edition of a book. The 13-digit and 10-digit formats both work.
Scan an ISBN with your phone
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Buy used On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$10.28 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
Buy new On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
$13.55 On clicking this link, a new layer will be open
More Buying Choices
66 New from $5.77 80 Used from $2.75
Free Two-Day Shipping for College Students with Amazon Student Free%20Two-Day%20Shipping%20for%20College%20Students%20with%20Amazon%20Student

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$13.55 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Color: A Natural History of the Palette
  • +
  • The Brilliant History of Color in Art
  • +
  • Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, & Violet
Total price: $52.80
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Defining color is a simple matter-visible light of a particular wavelength. Or is it? It turns out that the pigments and dyes responsible for hues have many remarkable characteristics, most of which we rarely ponder. Journalist Finlay's first book is a blend of travelogue and historical exploration about the myriad ways color takes on meaning for us, whether as a matter of aesthetics, economics, war or culture. The book has no overarching theme-it's all byways, an approach that works. Insofar as there is a thesis, it is that visual expression falls just behind procreation and the search for food and shelter as a fundamental human activity; countless peoples, Finlay reports, rank color and art among their primary concerns. During her journey, both literal and literary, Finlay learns of many little-known tribes and historical curiosities: too-trusting Puritans purchasing cheaply dyed black clothes destined to turn orange in a matter of weeks; the rise and heartbreaking fall of the art of the Pintupi tribe in barren central Australia during the 1970s; and the once-supreme economic clout of indigo from Bengal-to take just three examples among dozens. To delve into this book is to see the experimental, scientific side of the old masters and the artistic qualities of inventors and explorers. This is not a scientific work-those interested in rods and cones should look elsewhere. Thanks to Finlay's impeccable reportorial skills and a remarkable degree of engagement, this is an utterly unique and fascinating read. Illus., maps.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Journalist Finlay travels the world in search of ancient sources of natural colors, recounting along the way the surprising chemical processes by which everything from stones to insects to mummies have been transformed into precious pigments for paint, dyes, and varnish. In pursuit of art's first color, ochre, Finlay goes to Australia, offering, as she does in each location, an agile and entertaining then-and-now look at a place, a people, and a color and its uses and acquired meaning. Explication of red made from cochineal beetles inspires a compelling tale that stretches from Central America to Scotland, and wry humor abounds in her search for a yellow allegedly once made in India from the urine of mango-leaf-eating cows and coverage of sundry poisonous pigments. Her quest for blue brought Finlay to Afghanistan in 2000, where she was the first woman ever to tour a 7,000-year-old lapis lazuli mine, and one of the last Westerners to see the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan. Curious social mores, serendipitous science, and lots of skulduggery are all part of the rich spectrum Finlay so cheerfully illuminates. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Later Printing edition (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971422
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (172 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Important Information

Example Ingredients

Example Directions

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By racapowski VINE VOICE on September 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
Man, oh, man, did I want to love "Color," but it's bogged down by two major problems. The first is that it wants to be not only a) a history of dyes and pigments but also to some extent b) a history of various colors' cultural associations and c) a travelogue, and there just isn't room in this town for all three of those goals. Each chapter ricochets between the histories of several different types of dyeing materials, their cultural histories in their countries of origin, and author Victoria Finlay's modern-day adventures in those locales. Though the book is organized by the spectrum, with each color (plus black, white, and the first dye, ochre) receiving its own chapter, chasing Finlay's competing agendas makes the book overlong and trying to follow. The author just loses the thread too often.

The second is Finlay herself, who makes for a very trying narrator. She has an aggravating tendency to invent elaborate fantasies when facts fail her and expect us to invest in them throughout the chapter, when we just want her to get back to fact. She swears like Mark Twain thought all women did. Her scientific knowledge is lacking and apparently escaped fact-checking (her explanation of why the sky is red at sunset is wrong). Worst, however, is her unabashed colonialism; her globe-hopping quest for color often doubles as a tour of Britain's erstwhile empire, and there's a patronizing quality in Finlay's distanced view of these cultures that suggests a tyranny of low expectations.

Take the chapter on blue, which is in a way the book's strongest because it has a single long-term focus (a journey to a famed lapis lazuli quarry in Afghanistan) but is also one of the most amoral passages I've encountered in nonfiction.
Read more ›
7 Comments 242 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
This is a joy of a book. Victoria Finlay has taken a subject that is very important, but seldom discussed - namely how did we get the colors used by artists for painting - and wove it into a personal account of her travels to find their sources. In the process she introduces the reader to all manner of exotic and little-known, but delightful facts, peoples and places. From cochineal (I might note here that as an entomologist I was somewhat discouraged by her apparent inability to decide whether to call the source a beetle or a bug- it is a BUG! - the one clinker in an otherwise well done book), through madder as a source of orange, saffron for yellow, and on to lapis lazuli for blue, etc. The book is (as noted) also a personal travel narrative with lots of side trips. I found these to be fascinating and to add interest to a book that might have been a dry compendium of facts about chemicals.

"Color: A Natural History of the Palette" is a good book to curl up with at night or to read on an airplane. The reader will find enough local "color" and interesting tidbits to make the hours very pleasant indeed. This is, I think, especially true of artists who may not know much about the colors they use in their work.
Comment 58 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this reportage, where Victoria tracks down the origns of so many colours I knew from my childhood paintbox and later days with an aniline dyestuff manufacturer. However good the book is, and I highly recommend this to anyone interested in colourants and their origins, I was left wanting more......an upto date Part 2 please, to answer the questions that were left unanswered such as, "Is the lack of vivid bright orange just a reaction to the 60' & 70's overuse or is it still the case that cadmium orange (which does not get a mention) has not been replaced with anything quite as powerful? and what are the colours we now use in our paint boxes, wallpapers and so on?"
Why am I posing these questions, well Victoria is just the person to tell us auhtoritatively & accurately. I only had a few quibbles with the entire 400+ pages, one was an editor's slip that allowed India to be separated into Bangladesh, India & Pakistan in 1947! Which I am sure the author knows was not quite the instant route it seems (first it was the eastern half of the division known as Pakistan i.e. East Pakistan which then separated in 1971 I believe from West Pakistan and became Bangladesh). Another was the rather simlplistic way she refers to chemical formulas, yes of course AsS is a combination of 1 molecule each of arsenic & sulphur whereas As2S3 combines in the ratio of 2:3, however whether this means in fact the latter is any more poisonous than the former can not be assumed from the chemical formula....if I remember my chemistry correctly you need to understand which is more soluble in water or most readily adsorbed in the stomach (a solution of HCl I believe). If the author has confirmed this it was not clear from the text and copiuous and excellent notes.
Read more ›
Comment 107 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In some ways, this little book is hard to explain. Finlay is an excellent writer and thus much of the book is her exotic travels to seek the source of exotic colors from around the world. However, she also explores the history of certain pigments, paints, dyes, and other products. She also gives very interesting details on the production of these pigments,some of which required considerable costs and effort. Finally she gives interesting information about the pigment or product itself, focusing on various chemical properties, such as whether or not it is a poison or is light fast.

I enjoyed her early chapters on the production of paint, ranging all the way from ancient Roman encaustic painting, the hand ground pigments of the Renaissance, and the birth of more standardized paint products during the Industrial revolution.

It is fitting that Finlay starts her discussion with ocre, the most common of the dirt colors, which has given us such a broad range of tones through the centuries.

In her chapters on Black and Brown, we learn the origins of charcoal, pencil, and ink drawing instruements. In her chapter on White, we learn the terrible history of lead poisoing for those who wore White Lead makeup. In the chapter on Red we learn all about the cochineal beetle, that eats cactus, and has brilliant red blood - the color often called Carmen. We learn of other reds, such as Rose Madder, made from rose petals. Oranges may come from various plant sources and show up in varnish. We hear of brilliant yellows from the urine of cows fed mango leaves, or brilliant but poisonous greens - one of which is suspected of poisoning Napoleon with arsnic infused wallpaper.

Finlay goes to Afganistan to seek lapis blue and has some interesting tales to tell about the Taliban.
Read more ›
Comment 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
This item: Color: A Natural History of the Palette