A large and largely undocumented Dutch manuscript from 1692 was brought to the world’s attention last week after a historian published images of some of its stunning pages, many of which are filled with block after block of hand-painted colors. Some reports have been calling the manuscript the “original Pantone,” because — like the famous color catalog — the book documents hundreds of colors as they vary with different amounts of water. Titled Klaer lightende Spiegel der Verfkonst, it was hiding inside of a French library’s collection for about a century before being published online under a listing that roughly translates to A guide to colors for watercolor painting. According to medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel, the Leiden University researcher who brought attention to the book…

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Before Pantone, there was this hand-painted 17th century color guide


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