Numerating Color in 18th Century Vienna and Prague • Recently acquired • Wiener Farbenkabinet (The Viennese Color Collection)

Color (Lat. color, connected with celare, to hide, the root meaning, therefore, being that of a covering — Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed.)

In 1794, publisher Johann Ferdinand, Ritter von Schönfeld (1750-1821) revealed an extraordinary system of calibrated, named, and numerated colors in the following work:
Wiener Farbenkabinet oder vollständiges Musterbuch aller Natur-, Grund-, und Zusammensetzungfarben, “Viennese Color Collection or Complete Book of Samples of all Natural, Basic, and Combined Colors.” [Wien und Prag: Verlag der Schönfeldschen Handlung, 1794]. 2 volumes: 272, [68] p.; 158, [2], [32], [124] p. • (Ex) Item 5577427 • Purchased with funds for the history of science and the general rare book collections.

What counts in this book? Here’s the answer, by the numbers:

• 4608 hand-painted specimens, organized virtually prismatically, individually numbered, labeled, and arranged 48 per page

• 14 prose divisions treating seven individual colors at length (black, blue, yellow, red, green, brown and white), watercolors, miniature painting (two sections), colorist’s techniques (for figures, landscapes, clothing, etc.), brightness and varnishes. Also discussed: coloring linen, cotton, wool, silk, leather, wood, ivory, bone, ceramics of all sorts, stone, papier-mâche and sealing wax, glass, enamel work, vellum and feathers. And there are notes on printing inks and papers used by book binders

• 250 terms used in various branches of the color industry arranged in an alphabetic dictionary

• 3 issues known: 54 plates = 2592 specimens (Smithsonian); 79 plates = 3792 specimens (Yale); 96 plates = 4608 specimens (Princeton)