The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair

Browser review

World of colour: a  tray of baked Rainbow Bagels at The Bagel Store in Brooklyn. Photograph: Yana Paskova/The Washington Post via Getty Images

World of colour: a tray of baked Rainbow Bagels at The Bagel Store in Brooklyn. Photograph: Yana Paskova/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sat, Sep 23, 2017, 00:00

   
 

Book Title:
The Secret Lives of Colour

ISBN-13:
978-1473630833

Author:
Kassia St Clair

Publisher:
John Murray

Guideline Price:
£12.99

Journalist Kassia St Clair has been writing a column for Elle Decoration on colours since 2013. Every month, she picks a hue and regales her readers with its story – dipping into art, science, history, politics, myths, legends and more. Now she has picked 75 of the most interesting and put them together in this lovely compendium. The main categories: white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, blue, green, brown and black are subdivided into shades and tints – including unusual ones such as madder, gamboge and Isabelline. St Clair reveals, among other titbits, that the reason silver was originally chosen for tableware is because it was thought that poison made it change colour, and that the black kohl ancient Egyptians used to outline their eyes contained lead chlorides which helped protect against infections that could cause blindness. Even the introduction contains a fascinating – and slightly worrying – fact: that Issac Newton’s “rather arbitrary” slicing up of the rainbow into seven colour segments was just done so that it would echo his theories on music. This is a perfect gift for a colour enthusiast. Or just saturate yourself.