Posted by: Lizzie Ross | December 31, 2010

Color wheel

Another brief holiday post:

Color: A Natural History of the Palette (2002), Victoria Finlay, 395 pp. + notes

My sister left this in my bookcase a few years ago, and my daughter plans to take it with her after the holidays, so I thought I should finally read it.

The stories that Finlay has collected, visiting every continent but Antarctica in her search for the origins of inks, dyes, pigments and hues, kept me reading late into the night. The author interviews scientists, artists, historians, explorers, native peoples, men and women, children and adults, and spends time with primary sources in historic libraries nearly everywhere she travels.

Finlay is certainly the intrepid traveler, finding her way into Iran and Afghanistan in the early 2000s (even after 9/11), never hesitant to leave a paved road to follow uncertain directions, always happy to ask for directions and to wait for outcomes.

She has created a patient and informed guidebook through and beyond the meanings of colors in a wide array of cultures and eras. I’m glad I read this, before passing it along to another reader. It was a good trip.

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