a farbenkabinet

The main impetus for this was the gorgeous Wiener farbenkabinet, a book printed in Vienna in 1794 and filled with 2,592 hand-colored examples of different colors. I loved it from the moment I saw it, but it took me a long while to figure what to do with it, and then I started playing around with an uncolored herbal and lo and behold—it all came together!

Color history is a thing I know nothing about, but I love the care and beauty of one of the earliest (the earliest?) attempt to specify what names to attach to what colors and to illustrate them all. The Wiener farbenkabinet is also a weird and great printed object: a book of 158 pages of German blackletter (no, I haven’t read through that text) followed by an index and then 57 leaves of plates of colors, as seen in this wall hanging of four green-yellow plates overlaid with an image from an herbal.

The Wiener farbenkabinet shown here is one of a handful of extant copies; it’s owned—and was imaged and placed into the public domain—by the Smithsonian Libraries and you can drool over it safely at your computer at https://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/wienerfarbenkab00.

The herbal I used was selected kind of randomly from one of the early famous Dutch works, a 1568 printing by the Plantin house of Rembert Dodoens’s Florvm, et coronariarvm odoratarvmqve nonnvllarvm herbarvm historia. The copy I used is owned by the Getty Research Institute and was imaged and placed into the public domain; I found it at the Biodiversity Heritage Library and you can see it in its glory at https://doi.org/10.5962/bhl.title.106646.

I made two wall hangings along these lines; one using just a handful of plates and one that used the plates to make a repeating pattern. Both of them hang in my living room and they bring me a lot of joy. They’re from Contrado, and I think they did a pretty good job with the printing. I also seem to have made a design for a dress with the tulip pattern on it? I cannot vouch for that, though.

I also ended up making a blanket through Spoonflower; you can buy it from them in their “minky” fabric, which is so soft and delightful. The cats and I enjoy it a lot.