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Theory of Colours (MIT Press) Paperback – March 15, 1970

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Can you lend me The Theory of Colours for a few weeks? It is an important work. His latest things are insipid.

(Ludwig van Beethoven, Conversation-book, 1820)

About the Author

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), a towering figure in German literature, was the author of The Sorrows of Young Werther, Faust, Italian Journey, The Theory of Colours (MIT Press edition, 1970), and many other works.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 423 pages
  • Publisher: The M.I.T. Press; 1st edition (March 15, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262570211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262570213
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,579,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frank Bierbrauer on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, probably the greatest of Germany's poets, was also an avid amateur scientist and displayed through his careful observations and his keen, what might now be called phenomenological, mind an ability to discern the depth of the phenomenon in question, in this case the origin of colours. In direct contradiction to Newton whose theory of colour formation, based on his earlier prism experiments and their interpretation, was the accepted theory of the time in all scientific circles and laymen alike, with one exception, that of painting and artistic use of colour.
Goethe, being fascinated by the colours generated from the prism conducted his own investigations and found to his great surprise that Newton's theory was, if not incorrect, but rather mechanical in nature and based on an "interpretation" of the phenomenon rather than the truth as it stands. Goethe through his investigations into natural phenomena gave rise to the idea of the archetypal phenomenon or Ur-phenomenon, in this case meaning the movement or active form present in the phenomenon which gives it its character rather than some static image such as a Darwinian ancestor. Goethe noted that it is possible to actually experience the fullness of the phenomenon ie the coming into being of the colours themselves and that the human being can not only theorise in the conventional sense of Kant but can in fact truly know the phenomenon as it is. Contemporary science as it also was then does not acknowledge such a possibility.
The book is basically a written account of experiments done by Goethe on the generation of colour in natural events and his own experiments to bring to the fore the ground of all colour generation.
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Format: Paperback
First a note. Goethe's optical theory is well known to be incorrect. Whatever he applies in terms of optical theory, one can disregard.

This book is a fascinating look at the world of colors in which we live with the eye for detail of a scientist and the meditative appreciation of a philosopher. The attention to detail is very good. The experiments are reproducible. It's really nicely done.

The basic theory that Goethe seems to be striving for is a set of patterns which explain our perception of color in the world around us. His theories are thus almost more artistic than scientific. He looks a patterns in color change, including those in optical illusions relating solely to the eye. In these patterns he finds meaning.

I very much enjoyed this book. It helped me step back and enjoy the world a little more.
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Format: Paperback
Clever, original, speculative.

Ideas like Goethe's are the wellspring of new fashions in thought, whether they are 'right' or not.

Maybe Newton was supported by better evidence in his analysis of light and colour, but Goethe's views are a study in how the inquisitive human mind speculates on fascinating topics and comes up with answers that demand consideration and respect - whether they are 'right' in reality or just useful as ideas in themselves.

This book will provide insights into how we think, not just how we explain phenomenon.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am giving this book a three star rating for one simple reason and that is the way that the book has been formatted. I should have read it on the IPad, but the very fact that I have to keep going to the back to look at the images, is a pain.

Without images, and with a style of writing that is now obviously hard to follow, it becomes a difficult book to read. there is some wonderful material in the book, but the chore of closing my eyes and constantly visualising stuff is too much of a pain.
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Format: Paperback
Very solid, explicative (often clearer than the original text) translation of the "Didactical Part" of the "Theory of Colours".
Although, the complete "Theory of Colours" also includes a "Historical Part" and a "Polemical Part"...
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This is a great book, and though the format wasn't as I expected at the beginning - the information was priceless. Definitely a plus and a recommended read.
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Great book to read to learn goethe observation techniques to go deeper into the matter of things, It could be going deeper into the essence of a person to try to see more of that person not just the superficial, go deeper into the observation of one color and pay attention to see how other colors can emerge from that single color. I totally recommend it. It is great for artist or for any person in academic , the art or religion
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By Weiting on February 8, 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
I studied this in uni. Beautiful edition
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