Tag Archives: Colour

A few questions a few answers

I received an email this morning which reminded me of an interview I did for the lovely Louise Owens, an Australian books blogger in 2015. Looking back it feels a million years ago; it was around the time a friend committed suicide, before my parents died, before I started work on this new book (more about that when I’ve written more of it). But although it seems as if it has come from another planet there are some nice answers and great questions there, so I thought I’d post it here, just three years late.

Colours Travel Through a PaintboxWhen you go into a bookshop, which department do you head straight to? The one with the sofas. My favourite bookshops are independent ones with chairs in them, and people who love books, and a bit of organised chaos. A few weeks ago I was in Shakespeare & Co in Paris with a few hours to spare. I went to the top floor (which has a cat, several sofas, a little desk with typewriter that Hemingway would have loved no doubt) and I found a second hand version of Vita Sackville West’s Thirty Clocks Strike the Hour. And I read the title story and was transported then to the Boulevard des Italiens where her great-grandmother had a vast corner house with twenty windows on the boulevard and where, one night, the young Vita hid in shadows and watched her grandmother, walk slowly through all those grand rooms until she reached one with thirty clocks… When I left the shop a couple of hours later I had moved into another dimension. I’ll go to any bit of any bookshop to find the books (which could be in science or music or fiction or art or memoir or travel) that will do that.

Looking back, which experiences, jobs and personality traits do you think have really helped you? Continue reading

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Pepys struggled with reading a book on Colours

I have just received a lovely letter from Mr Kenneth Bone in Stirlingshire, telling me about one of his favourite quotations from Samuel Pepys’ Diary (Vol 2).

2nd June 1667 (Lords Day)

Being weary and almost blind with writing and reading so much today, I took boat and up the river all alone as high as Putney almost, and then back again, all the way reading and finishing Mr. Boyle’s book of Colours, which is so chemical that I can understand but little of it, but enough to see that he is a most excellent man.”

Pepys was talking about Robert Boyle’s Experiments on Colours, published in 1663, and Mr Bone wondered why I hadn’t mentioned it in my bibliography of Colour: Travels through the Paintbox. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t even found it, let alone struggled through the chemistry of it.

However since then, Gutenberg, that wonderful free library institution (for which I helped on the inputting of a couple of fantastic obscure books a few years ago, which I’d recommend to anyone who likes that kind of thing) has now put it online.

It starts with a short Preface, expressing a concern that I have some sympathy with:

Having in convenient places of the following Treatise, mention'd the
Motives, that induc'd me to write it, and the Scope I propos'd to my self
in it; I think it superfluous to entertain the Reader now, with what he
will meet with hereafter. And I should judge it needless, to trouble
others, or my self, with any thing of Preface: were it not that I can
scarce doubt, but this Book will fall into the hands of some Readers, who
being unacquainted with the difficulty of attempts of this nature, will
think itn strange that I should publish any thing about Colours, without a
particular Theory of them.

Read more of the 1664 book here, though apparently the best edition was published in 1852, with notes by John Holmes Esq, of the British Museum. Next time, some information from the Painter’s Companion, 1810, also sadly unquoted in my book, but deserving a mention.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those readers giving thanks.