Colour : Travels Through the Paintbox

3.78 (52,007 ratings by Goodreads)
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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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Product details

  • Paperback | 512 pages
  • 128 x 194 x 30mm | 458.13g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Sceptre
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Maps and integrated illustrations
  • 0340733292
  • 9780340733295
  • 31,836

Review quote

A welcome reminder of the epic stories beneath the surface of everyday life * Telegraph * Victoria Finlay has unlocked the history of colour in this trawl through some little-known history * Courier Mail ( Australia) * Packed with facts, fables and anecdotes ... Finlay's detailed and brilliantly researched account makes for a fascinating read * Australian Interior Trends * An irresistible cornucopia ...Her travels are Marco Polish; her research vast but lightly worn. The whole book is an infectious delight. * RTE Guide * 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 * Telegraph * An utterly unique and fascinating read * Publishers Weekly * It's hard to criticise her spirit of cultural exploration and easy to share her intelligent enthusiasm . . .Packed with pertinent trivia . . . informative and fun * South China Morning Post * You get your money's worth and change to spare ... Both picaresque and picturesque, it's a rich read. * Evening Standard * Packed with stories, anecdotes and adventures. A full rainbow ... as vivid as the colours themselves * Express * 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, author of THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN * A treasure trove of human history and obsession...the breadth of research and insight is dazzling. * The Glasgow Herald * A highly companionable guide, adventurous and romantic * Independent on Sunday * It's pure pleasure to join this gutsy arts reporter-cum-scholar on her quest for historical pigments and dyes around the world * Independent * [Victoria Finlay's] curiosity is inexhaustible, her reading wide, and her writing style a delight * Sunday Telegraph *
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About Victoria Finlay

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. She has recently moved back to England and is busy researching her second book - a biography of precious stones.
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Rating details

52,007 ratings
3.78 out of 5 stars
5 38% (20,002)
4 24% (12,587)
3 22% (11,192)
2 9% (4,430)
1 7% (3,796)

Our customer reviews

This is a great read for people who like generalist history merged with travelogue - dilettantes like myself. It's got some fascinating stories in it about the origin of paints and their colours and skips back and forth between famous painters and sea slugs, beetles and Australia. It's not an in-depth history of a subject but an entertaining overview illustrated with interesting items from the more
by Melissa
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