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The Original Color Guide, 271 Years Before Pantone

Artistic Inspiration

When drawing color inspiration, it's safe to say most designers are working from the Pantone Color Guide. As the archetypal color reference library, it's normal to assume that the Pantone Color Guide was the first comprehensive guide to paint and color. But it actually wasn't. Published in 1692, some 270 years before its Pantone counterpart went to print for the first time in 1963, was“Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l'eau" or "Treaty on Painting Watercolors."

Created by an artist only known as 'A. Boogert', the book, written in Dutch and full of hand-painted color swatches, is an educational guide on how to mix watercolor paints. The book explains how to create colors from the darkest to lightest hues and change tones by adding one, two or three parts water, with hundreds of examples. The result is incredible, with each of the almost 800 pages completely handwritten and painted.

According to Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel who translated part of the introduction, it was probably only seen by very few people, as there was only a single copy of the book. The entire book can be viewed here (, and the original manuscript can be found at the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France.

Images courtesy Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, France