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Nickelsen, Kärin (May 2005): The Challenge of Colour. Eighteenth-century Botanists and the Hand-colouring of Illustrations. In: Annals of Science


Colourful plant images are often taken as the icon of natural history illustration. However, so far little attention has been paid to the question how this beautiful colouring was achieved. At a case study of the eighteenth-century Nuremberg doctor and botanist Christoph Jacob Trew the process of how illustrations were hand-coloured, who were involved in this work and how the colouring was supervised and evaluated is reconstructed, mostly based on Trew’s correspondence with the engraver and publisher of his books, Johann Jacob Haid in Augsburg. Furthermore, the question of standardising colours, their uses and their recipes is discussed at two examples of the same time period: the colour charts of the Bauer brothers, arguably the most renowned botanical draughtsmen of the period, and the colour tables by the Regensburg naturalist Jacob Christian Schaeffer. Hand-colouring botanical illustrations, it is argued, was far from a straightforward task but confronted botanists and their employees with a plethora of practical and methodological problems, to which different solutions were developed in the course of time. Analysing these problems and solutions reveals some new and interesting aspects of the practices of eighteenth-century botany and of the production of scientific illustrations in general.