Colour Travels Through the Paintbox

Author(s): Victoria Finlay

Nature and Science | Art

Part travelogue, part narrative history, Colour unlocks the history of the colours of the rainbow, and reveals how paints came to be invented, discovered, traded and used. This remarkable and beautifully written book remembers a time when red paint was really the colour of blood, when orange was the poison pigment, blue as expensive as gold, and yellow made from the urine of cows force-fed with mangoes. It looks at how green was carried by yaks along the silk road, and how an entire nation was founded on the colour purple.

Exciting, richly informative, and always surprising, 'Colour' lifts the lid on the historical palette and unearths an astonishing wealth of stories about the quest for colours, and our efforts to understand them.


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On a journey that takes her from Afghanistan, to the Australian outback, to ancient caves in China, and the saffron harvest in Spain, Victoria Finlay gives an extraordinary, and compelling account of the history of colour.

'[Victoria Finlay's] curiosity is inexhaustible, her reading wide, and her writing style a delight' -- Sunday Telegraph 20030518 'It's pure pleasure to join this gutsy arts reporter-cum-scholar on her quest for historical pigments and dyes around the world' -- Independent 20021122 'A highly companionable guide, adventurous and romantic' -- Independent on Sunday 20030518 'A treasure trove of human history and obsession...the breadth of research and insight is dazzling.' -- Glasgow Herald 20030607 'Packed with stories, anecdotes and adventures. A full rainbow ... as vivid as the colours themselves' -- Daily Express 20030607 'You get your money's worth and change to spare ... Both picaresque and picturesque, it's a rich read.' -- Evening Standard 20030607 'Full of forgotten facts and beguiling anecdotes ... it would be hard to confront a painting ever again without seeing in it a kind of coded map of the world' -- Daily Telegraph 20021019 'An irresistible cornucopia ...Her travels are Marco Polish; her research vast but lightly worn. The whole book is an infectious delight.' -- RTE Guide 20021101 'An utterly unique and fascinating read' -- Publishers Weekly 20021216 'Packed with facts, fables and anecdotes ... Finlay's detailed and brilliantly researched account makes for a fascinating read' -- Australian Interior Trends 20020801 'Victoria Finlay has unlocked the history of colour in this trawl through some little-known history' -- Courier Mail ( Australia) 20021026 'A welcome reminder of the epic stories beneath the surface of everyday life' -- Daily Telegraph 20030517 'This is a rare and wonderful book - a model of erudition and charm, the writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating revelation on every single page. I could not be more enthusiastic.' -- Simon Winchester 20030517

Victoria Finlay studied social anthropology at St Andrews University, specialising in Asian culture. She worked as a journalist in Hong Kong for eleven years, five of which were spent as arts editor for the "South China Morning Post".

General Fields

  • : 9780340733295
  • : Hodder & Stoughton
  • : Sceptre
  • : 0.363
  • : April 2003
  • : 198mm X 130mm X 30mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Victoria Finlay
  • : Paperback
  • : New edition
  • : English
  • : 910.4
  • : 512
  • : maps, illustrations