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The Book of Colour Concepts

200Edition: Multilingual (English, French, German, Spanish)Availability: In Stock
From the 17th century to the advent of the digital age, color theories have been illustrated with opulent wheels, polychrome charts, and meticulous diagrams. Gathering over 65 works from around the world, with more than 1,000 images, this edition traces the many hues of a subject that inspired Newton, Goethe, Sanzō Wada, the Bauhaus, and many more.
Hardcover, two vols. in slipcase9.6 x 12.0 in.13.56 lb846 pages

“This monumental book takes stock of the history and phenomenology behind the nuances that compose a rainbow.”

Il Venerdì di Repubblica

“A chromatic exploration across four centuries, with insights on the key works that contributed to the development of color theory.”

Luxus Magazine

“This two-volume set by Alexandra Loske and Sarah Lowengard is not just elegant, and massive, and intelligent, it is the final word on color as an essential life force.”


“People experience a great delight in colour. The eye requires it as much as it requires light.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colours
The Book of Colour Concepts

The Book of Colour Concepts


Four Centuries of Color

The human history of color, in two sweeping volumes

The earliest forms of human creativity – in carvings, markings, and cave paintings – bear witness to humanity’s engagement with color. Almost as old as these examples is the desire to assign structure, order, and meaning to this universal yet elusive concept, and it is this fascination that unites the works compiled in this expansive edition.

Gathering over 65 rare books and manuscripts from a wealth of institutions, including the most distinguished color collections worldwide, The Book of Colour Concepts takes the reader on a chromatic odyssey across four centuries and over 1,000 images of luscious wheels and globes, painstakingly collated charts, and meticulous diagrams, many of them newly photographed exclusively for this edition. Some of these concepts provide exhaustive taxonomies of color, while others reflect upon the relationship of color and music, or the affinities between color and human emotions.

Seminal works of color theory, such as Isaac Newton’s Opticks and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s hugely significant Zur Farbenlehre, are shown alongside rare and unfamiliar contributions, including the theosophical color systems of Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant, the comprehensive color ‘dictionary’ of Aloys John Maerz and Morris Rea Paul, and the patchwork combinations of the Japanese costume designer and artist Sanzō Wada.

The two volumes also bring many intriguing and often overlooked works by women into the spotlight, including the radically inventive color “blots” of the English flower painter Mary Gartside and a botanical notebook by the pionieering spiritualist Hilma af Klint.

The color systems that make up this edition are contextualized by introductory essays from editor Alexandra Loske and co-author Sarah Lowengard, while authoritative texts from the editor on the works reproduced set out each concept in further detail. Illuminating the history of color in all its shapes and forms, The Book of Colour Concepts offers a chromatic chronology unparalleled in scope.

The editor

Alexandra Loske is a British-German art historian, writer, and museum curator, with a particular interest in the role of women in the history of colour. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Sussex, and is currently Curator of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. Loske has lectured and been published widely on colour and other topics, and has curated a number of exhibitions, including “Regency Colour and Beyond, 1785–1845” at the Royal Pavilion in 2014.

The contributing author

Sarah Lowengard is a historian of technology and science who writes about practical and philosophical engagements with colour. A practicing art conservator for more than 40 years and an artisan colour-maker for even longer, Lowengard is a member of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Cooper Union in New York City, and maintains affiliation with several technical art history and analytical art organizations in the United States and abroad.

The Book of Colour Concepts
Hardcover, two vols. in slipcase24.3 x 30.4 cm6.15 kg846 pages

ISBN 978-3-8365-9565-0

Edition: Multilingual (English, French, German, Spanish)
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