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February 9th, 2015

Pantone Before Pantone

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pantone-color-guide

The Pantone Matching System didn’t come about until the early 1960s, but it turns out there was a similar guide created some 270 years before that.

An artist only known as “A. Boogert” wrote a book in Dutch back in 1692 that sought to explain how to mix watercolors. While that may sound like a simple task, Mister or Misses Boogert was incredibly thorough.

After spending the beginning of the book writing about mixing watercolors, the majority of the nearly 800 page book is painstakingly painted with different tints of nearly every color you can imagine. Also as you can imagine, the results look remarkably similar to today’s Pantone Color Guide.

The process to paint each color by hand would be extremely tedious and time consuming, and it’s hard to believe this was produced at the time it was. The book was discovered by Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel, who notes the irony inherent in the book on his blog.

“It makes sense, then, that the author explains in the introduction that he wrote the book for educational purposes,” he writes. “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.”

You can see scans of the entire book here.

Pantone Matching System

Pantone has become known for its color matching system, which provides a standardization of color for a variety of industries. We use the Pantone matching system extensively in the printing industry, and through the years the company has expanded its systems to be adaptable for other materials like fabric and plastic.

Today, there also is a Pantone standardization series for digital RGB color as well, which is often used by graphic designers.