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Book of the Week — De coloribus libellus


“Those colours are simple which belong to the elements, fire, air, water and earth. For air and water are naturally white in themselves, while fire and the sun are golden. The earth is also naturally white, but seems coloured because it is dyed. This becomes clear when we consider ashes; for they become white when the moisture which caused their dyeing is burned out of them; but not completely so, for they are also dyed by smoke, which is black. In the same way sand becomes golden, because the fiery red and black tints the water. The colour black belongs to the elements of things while they are undergoing a transformation of their nature. But the other colours are evidently due to mixture, when they are blended with each other. For darkness follows when light fails. — Loeb Classical Library translation

Pseudo Aristotele (384 BC – 322 BC)
Florentinae: ex officina Laurentii Torrentini, 1548
Editio princips

This is perhaps the earliest work on color theory, attributed to Aristotle, who took his ideas from Empedocles and went a step further, creating a base line occupied by seven colors. Aristotle’s base line was applied to all color-systems up to the time of Isaac Newton. His assumption was to represent colors as actual characteristics of the surface of bodies and not as subjective phenomena produced by the eye or in the brain as a result of the properties of light. Aristotle observed colors very accurately, as well as their contrasts. He was noted, for instance, that the violet appearing on white wool appeared different when on black wool and that colors appeared different in daylight than in candlelight. Only much later were these phenomena systematically examined and explained.

This edition was translated and edited with extensive scholarly commentary by Simone Porzio (1497-1554), a Neapolitan philosopher and scientist who was a fanatical disciple of Pomponazzi. Porzio eventually gave up lecturing on medicine at Piza and his scientific studies to focus on studying philosophy. Porzio denied immortality in all forms and taught that the human soul is homogeneous with the soul of animals and plants.

Binding is old vellum with a red leather lettering piece.


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