More than two centuries before Pantone divided the visible spectrum into six-digit color codes, a mysterious Dutch artist crafted this extraordinary guide to painting in watercolor. Hundreds of subtly varying colors were mixed by hand for this one-of-a-kind, encyclopedic volume.

As Colossal has pointed out, the 800-page book resembles a comprehensive Pantone's color guide from 1692. Dutch book historian Erik Kwakkel recently rediscovered Klaer lightende Spiegel der Verfkonst in the online archives of the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France. There's only one recorded copy of the handwritten and handpainted book—thanks to the internet, its readership has probably grown exponentially after Kwakkel posted it on his blog.

Details about the book's origins are scant. The author is known only as A. Boogert, and the introduction suggest the book was written has an instruction manual. Painted swatches illustrate the instructions that describe how to alter a color by adding "one, two or three portions of water." Who could have written such a comprehensive guide to color in the 17th century?


For art historians, readers of Dutch script, and anyone else who wants to ogle pretty colors, the entire book is available here and its record here. Find anything interesting in the 800 pages? We'd love to hear from you in the comments. [Erik Kwakkel via This Is Colossal]