A colourful book

I encountered this book from 1692 in a French database today and it turns out to be quite special. For one thing, apart from a single mention in a catalogue, no scholar appears to have written, or even know about it. Moreover, the object is special because it provides an unusual peek into the workshop of 17th-century painters and illustrators. In over 700 pages of handwritten Dutch, the author, who identifies himself as A. Boogert (Pic 2), describes how to make watercolour paints. He explains how to mix the colours and how to change their tone by adding “one, two or three portions of water”. To illustrate his point he fills each facing page with various shades of the colour in question (lower image). To top it he made an index of all the colours he described, which in itself is a feast to look at (Pics 1 and 3). In the 17th century, an age known as the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, this manual would have hit the right spot. It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes. Remarkably, because the manual is written by hand and therefore literally one of a kind, it did not get the “reach” among painters – or attention among modern art historians – it deserves.

Pic: Aix-de-Provence, Bibliothèque municipale/Bibliothèque Méjanes, MS 1389 (1228). Luckily, the entire book can be viewed here, in hi-res, zoomable images. Here is a description of the book.