Historical Color Guide

I really am a sucker for old books, especially something odd or quirky, and even more especially if it has to do with fashion or design.  This recently found gem, Historical Color Guide, published in 1938 by Elizabeth Burris-Meyer, fits the bill perfectly.  Burris-Meyer was the Dean of the School for Fashion Careers, which I assume was the Tobé-Coburn School for Fashion Careers.   The book was meant to be a guide to color schemes for decorators and designers of all types.  For each of the 30 different color schemes, she gives a bit of historical reasoning.

The Egyptian colors were all mineral in origin – red from haemalite, blue from copper, green from powdered malachite – and so on.  Note the un-scientific names given to each color!

According to Burris-Meyer, it was Josephine’s cultivated taste that inspired the colors of this era.

Soon after I found this book, I chanced upon a set of Prang Examples of Historic Ornament cards, published by Louis Prang.  Prang was established as a printer of Christmas cards, and soon branched out into other types of chromolithography.  The cards date to 1879, according to the records at Winterthur, which has some sets of these.  Louis Prang was interested in education and continued to publish items such as these cards for use in schools and in adult education.

I thought these two pages were interesting together.  I have a page on Persian Miniatures from Historical Color Guide beside a Historic Ornament card titled Arabian.  Note the similar colors.

I’ll not show every card, as some of them are very similar.  And you will need to click on each card to see an enlarged view.


Filed under Collecting, Curiosities

13 responses to “Historical Color Guide

  1. What a wonderful book! Congratulations, this is very valuable find.


  2. Lizzie, these are beautiful, I love seeing period colors like this.


  3. These are wonderful Lizzie. I’d love to have these in my collection. A very interesting resource. Thanks for sharing your finds. L xx


  4. I must agree with the above comments–what a fabulous find!


  5. What gorgeous finds! Oh, the colors & the patterns. I don’t think I could part with those. Dreamy!


  6. Em

    I can look at books of this ilk for hours and hours…fantastic…


  7. me

    Fascinating-thank you! What wonderful and great books! Juliet


  8. wow, wow, wow! These are so fantastic! It’s so nice to be able to see the colour palettes and the actual designs!!


  9. Thanks so much for all the nice comments. It is a fun book, and the cards are especially nice.

    A blogger tweeted about another such book that predates the one I found and probably inspired it:



  10. Must… have… all …. the …. books! Oh, I am so jealous right now. I will be adding these to my “must have” list. I too cannot pass up a book like this! Congrats on the super finds!


  11. thank you for this wonderful plates!


  12. Awesome finds–both of them! I really love the Egyptian colors.


  13. what a treasure! I’m a historic preservationist and finding color guides is really rare and coveted. I hope that you can share this with people who own period homes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.