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review 2017-06-30 00:44
Jewels: A Secret History
Jewels: A Secret History - Victoria Finlay

This seemed to be the most referenced book in Stoned by Aja Raden. So I picked it up from the library as well. I'm glad I read Stoned first. I liked Raden's style of writing more than Finlay's.


Jewels is an interesting read too, I just found it a little dry. Also I wish the book had footnotes rather than notes at the back. It was annoying to have to keep flipping back and forth while reading.

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review 2014-12-03 19:28
The Brilliant History of Color in Art by Victoria Finlay
The Brilliant History of Color in Art - Victoria Finlay

Having studied art history, I was somewhat familiar with the history of the use and symbology of color, but I knew little about the historical and social origins of each color. This book has contributed to filling that gap in my education. It is a history of colours organised around colours instead of following a chronological order, which contributes to the fleshing out of each color in a way that prevents them from “blending” into another (pun intended).

Written with a younger audience in mind, this book would probably be at home in an art class for teens. It is informative, captivating and easy to read. It is also lavishly illustrated with works of art and supporting materials. The stories are presented in such a way that it read like the best History books: as a succession of fascinating stories about Human ingenuity.

It will certainly influence the way I look at colours (in art and elsewhere) from now on.


Note: I got this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

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review 2014-02-08 00:00
Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Color: A Natural History of the Palette - Victoria Finlay three stars
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review 2013-03-24 00:00
Color: A Natural History of the Palette - Victoria Finlay Some passages are infectious with her fascination for the colors (pigments) and the histories. However, there was a lot of fanciful "What if"-ing, when the facts were not available. Also, the huge chunks of history could have been broken down into something easier to digest. The section on lapiz lazuli in Afghanistan was such a terribly dry read.


Almost half a year later, finally finished reading this. Often found myself glossing over paragraphs, and had to take breaks to get my concentration back. Now and then my efforts would be rewarded with a dinner conversation-worthy fact. "Did you know that some sacred Jewish vestments are dyed with a pigment from un-kosher sources?" "Did you know that Victorian wallpaper had arsenic?" It's like sifting through so much river silt, to find the occasional shiny nugget. A little patience is required.

All in all, it certainly makes one pause before being able to answer the question, "So what's your favorite color?" I think out of all the histories presented here, my favorite would be the Red chapter, then section on gamboge, but probably because of its exposure on Radiolab.
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review 2012-08-23 00:00
Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Color: A Natural History of the Palette - Victoria Finlay Colour is part travel, part history. Finlay has divided the book according to the rainbow and investigates how each colour was made in the time before synthetic colours. Where possible, she visits countries of traditional production and learns how to make these colours herself and also about how colour production changed societies and cultures. Finlay writes about why certain colours are given a high status (e.g. purple as the colour of royalty), compares how the same colours were made in different countries and why some became prized over others.I really enjoyed Colour. Finlay is an engaging writer who is fascinated by her subject matter and this comes across on the page. Finding out how colours were made was truly compelling as I had no idea that humans were so inventive. From sea snails to animal bones to bug blood to precious stones, there seems to be nothing colourful in nature that was not exploited for paint or dye at some time in history. I was fascinated with the complicated process of making colour, of how you go from a rock of lapis lazuli to a blue oil paint and how artists used to make their own colours and tones according to what they wanted to paint. Colour had power in history and there are plenty of accounts of countries and places become rich by making a fade-resistant paint that could be exported. Finlay does a good job of explaining how these colours then became exulted and held up by society, part of the fabric of life.Although I enjoyed the travel sections, where Finlay meets people living where colours were made in the past and discusses the legacy of colour with them, these sections took a backseat for me to the sections about actually making the paint or dye itself. I would also have liked to learn more about modern paint making, about how many of the traditional colour sources are still used, and how the transition was made from natural to artificial colours. Finlay clearly feels like something has been lost as we're forgetting the secrets of natural colours and I couldn't help but agree with her. I'd be interested to see a modern paint-making factory to investigate how different things really are (I know you can still buy some traditional colours).All in all, an absorbing and well written non-fiction book that I'm happy I picked up. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel or history, or anyone who has ever mixed their own colours using a watercolour set.
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