The archival digital print – Animal, Vegetable, Mineral is based on ‘Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, Adapted to zoology, botany, chemistry, mineralogy, anatomy and the arts by Patrick Syme.’
Patrick Syme RSA (1774-1845) was prominent in the foundation of the Royal Scottish Academy, occupying the chair at the first meeting in May 1826, and becoming one of the council of four appointed there to manage its affairs. First published in 1814, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours is a taxonomic guide to the colours of the natural world. In the late eighteenth century, mineralogist Abraham Gottlob Werner devised a standardized colour scheme that allowed him to describe even the subtlest of chromatic differences with consistent terminology. His scheme was then adapted by Patrick Syme, who used the actual minerals described by Werner to create the colour charts in the book, enhancing them with examples from flora and fauna. In the pre-photographic age, almost all visual details had to be captured via the written word, and scientific observers could not afford ambiguity in their descriptions. Werner’s handbook became an invaluable resource for naturalists and anthropologists, including Charles Darwin, who used it to identify colours in nature during his seminal voyage on the HMS Beagle.