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The Secret Lives of Color: A color-full book

rainbow color

Colorful rainbow at Yellowstone. Image courtesy of Todd Cravens, Unsplash.

If you’re an artist, a history lover or just an art lover like me, there is a delightful book out there called “The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair. I came across it and I’m enjoying it so much.

I love color, especially the vibrant colors of the Christmas season. I also like the gold, amber, scarlet and orange colors of fall, as well as the pastels of spring and the Easter season. I get hungry for color after a long winter of dull colors; I’m always delighted to see the first purple crocuses and the whites and yellows of daffodils and jonquils.

The book talks about the history behind various colors like kelly green, violet, cobalt blue, acid yellow, Dutch orange and scarlet. And the book isn’t just about the colors you’d find in a rainbow; it also discusses neutral colors like brown, gray and sepia.

The book is also a visual delight. There are strips of color on the edges of the book’s pages, matching the color discussed on those pages. The front of the book is a light, silvery gray decorated with dots of various colors; definite kudos to Penguin Books’ art designer for using the gray color to make the dots of color pop out even more.

Even the index has colored dots next to different entries, an unusual feature of this book. It’s the first time I’ve seen that in a book index.

The book also contains loads of fascinating color-related trivia, such as:

  • Baker-Miller pink seemed to calm down criminals when it was used to paint a Seattle, Washington holding cell in 1979.
  • Rosso corsa (“racing red”) became Italy’s national racing color and was adopted by Enzo Ferrari for the Ferrari cars.
  • The color mauve was developed in 1856 by British scientist William Perkin. He was trying to find a cheaper way to produce quinine from coal tar and noticed that a bright purple liquid was the by-product. Perkin realized the commercial benefit for using that liquid as a dye. After a while, it caught on.

I’ve often thought we’re lucky to be able to see so many different colors and sometimes wonder what life is like for those who are color-blind. There is a company, EnChroma, that makes glasses with special filters that allow some color-blind wearers to see colors more easily. The videos are heartwarming to see (look below).

So if you enjoy color in any way, shape or form, this book is well worth reading. You may be able to find it at your local library and it’s also available at Amazon. (Video credit: Tech Insider, YouTube.)



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