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WILSON, Robert Francis.

Horticultural Colour Chart.

London: British Colour Council in collaboration with The Royal Horticultural Society, 1938-42 Stock Code: 141298
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Colour for horticulture

Well preserved set of the first edition of this cleverly conceived project to standardise colour definitions so that "there will be but one colour name recognised for each hue in the textile and all colour-using industries as well as by artist's colourmen". A frequently called upon working tool, it is unusual for sets to survive in such excellent state.

The British Colour Council was set up in 1931 under the direction of Robert Francis Wilson, with the purpose of issuing "seasonal colour charts of apparel and home furnishings" (Kuehni & Schawrz, Color Ordered, p. 297), the first publication under its aegis being the Dictionary of Colour Standards (1934). Originally designed for use in the textile dye industry, the 3-number BCC codes established allowed such subtlety of hue in comparison with previous standards that they were adopted in a wide range of fields where precise colour matching was important. On the basis of the BCC codes the present system was elaborated primarily for use by horticulturists, but was expected to "have a use and value far outside of its horticultural scope". The only historical precedents for this complex exercise were perhaps the remarkable colour charts created by the great eighteenth-century botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer, for use on Sibthorp's expedition to Greece, and Flinders' to Australia (Mulholland, "Painting by Numbers", V & A blog, 22/05/2012).

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2 volumes octavo (250 x 170 mm) Original pale khaki linen covered folding portfolio cases, with titles in black to front panel, white paper liners, hinges of white cloth. One 8-page wire-stitched guide accompanies each volume, and 200 loose sheets with four colour samples per sheet in total; black card viewing mask included.


A little rubbed at the extremities, the samples which are printed on loaded paper have curled slightly at the edges, one with a small chip from the leading edge, guide to the first volume slightly foxed, white cloth hinges also affected, very good.


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