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Colour by Victoria Finlay bears the apt subtitle Travels Through the Paintbox. Alternating between a personal journey and a historical account, Finlay tells the stories of different colours of paints, pigments and inks.

Starting with simple ochre and its uses across the world, from Australia to Europe, Finlay covers an astounding amount of ground, both literally (travelling to Peru, India, Spain, Iran and many more destinations), and in terms of the variety of colours (everything from lead white to prussian blue to crimson to indigo to lamp black). It is a pleasure to finally discover where the often esoteric names on the tubes of paint we so casually purchase in any art shop originally come from.

This is an intriguing book, excellently written, and provides a fascinating insight into an almost-forgotten world of alchemy, art, economics and a great deal more.

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