Monday, November 15, 2010

Elephant's Breath and London Smoke

Another interestingly titled book on my reference shelves is Elephant's Breath and London Smoke, Historic Colour Names, Definitions, and Uses, edited by Deb Salisbury. This is such an interesting book. Have you ever read a period novel and wondered about the color of some piece of clothing, drape, or upholstery? No? Well, why not?! Have you ever read the color of something in a book and wondered exactly what the color looked like? No? Is it only me???

Well, apparently it isn't only me, because Ms. Salisbury has put a lot of effort and research into compiling this book of names for colors throughout history. For example, what is an Abraham skirt with fauvre ribbon embellishments? It is a dingy yellow skirt with ribbons of deep yellow. She has consulted numerous books of dye recipes, fashion magazines from more than a hundred years ago, painter's manuals, period dictionaries and encyclopedias, and hundreds more sources to bring us this book, covering 400 years of color names in fashion and in textiles.

There is a dictionary of over 200 color names and descriptions along with sections of commentary from different historical periods, covering historical color names for fashion, dyeing, make-up, horses' livery, covering cloths, and even color symbolism. There are dye recipes and paint ingredients, a discussion of mourning colors, and even the colors found in theatrical make-up.

It is a great book, really lots of fun to read. I bought my 2009 copy from Amazon, and it wasn't cheap. I'm not sure if your local library would carry a copy, but it would certainly be worth checking into, even if you never need to use the book as a reference guide.

1 comment:

lisaschaos said...

What a fun name for it! There are so many colors! I bet it is handy, but can't say I wondered that much about it, lol.