Interesting historic texts, now available in English!
Note: All of the documents on this page are copyrighted by the
respective authors. They may be downloaded for educational or
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Johann Heinrich Lambert's Farbenpyramide: Translation of "Beschreibung
einer mit dem Calauischen Wachse ausgemalten Farbenpyramide"
("Description of a color pyramid painted with Calau's wax"), Berlin:
Haude & Spener, 1772.
With a brief introduction and biographical information on Lambert and
Calau by Rolf Kuehni.
Introduction, biographical information, and translation: © Rolf Kuehni 2011.
Die Grundempfindungen und ihre Intensitäts-Vertheilung im Spectrum (Fundamental sensations and their intensity distribution in the spectrum), by Arthur König (in collaboration with Conrad Dieterici), Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin 29 July 1886, pp. 805-829 An English translation with a short biographical introduction by Rolf G. Kuehni and a retrospective introduction by Claudio Oleari.
Copyright of original paper: unknown.
Biographical introduction: ©Rolf G. Kuehni, 2010.
Retrospective technical introduction: © Claudio Oleari, 2010.
Neue Forschungen zur Farbenlehre (New researches in color science), by
Wilhelm Ostwald, Physikalische Zeitschrift XVII, 1916, pp. 322-332,
Leipzig: S. Hirzel (1899-1945). An English translation with a
biographical introduction by Rolf G. Kuehni and a technical introduction
by Michael H. Brill and Rolf G. Kuehni
Copyright of original paper: Wilhelm-Ostwald-Gesellschaft.
Biographical introduction ©2010 by Rolf G.
English translation ©2010 by Rolf G. Kuehni.
Technical introduction ©2010 by Michael H. Brill and Rolf G. Kuehni.
The Colors of Colored Things, by Jerome Y. Lettvin, MIT RLE Quarterly Progress Report No. 87, 15 October 1967, pp. 193-229.
An A/D translation with a short biography and a technical introduction by Michael H. Brill. [Note: Jerome Lettvin passed away on 23 April 2011, after this material was posted.]
Original article ©1967 by Jerome Y. Lettvin.
Biography ©2010 by Michael H. Brill.
Retrospective introduction ©2010 by Michael H. Brill.
Traité de la painture au pastel (Treatise on pastel painting)
In Anonymous (C. B.), Traité de la peinture en mignature (Treatise on miniature painting), The Hague: van Dole, 1708
An English translation with a speculative essay on its authorship by Rolf G. Kuehni
Original article copyright expired.
English translation © 2010 by Rolf G. Kuehni.
Speculative essay © 2010 by Rolf G. Kuehni.
Aus dem Gebiet der Farbreizmetrik (On color stimulus metrics),
by Robert Luther, Zeitschrift für technische Physik 8 (1927) 540-558
An English translation with a short biographical introduction by
Rolf G. Kuehni and a technical introduction by Michael H. Brill
Translation and biography © 2009 Rolf G. Kuehni.
Technical introduction © 2009 by Michael H. Brill.
Philipp Otto Runge’s Color Sphere
Philipp Otto Runge´s FarbenKugel (Color sphere) of 1810
was a seminal contribution to the development of three-dimensional
color order systems. Within the year of its publication Runge, at
age 33, succumbed to tuberculosis. The model of the color sphere,
based on the interaction of three chromatic (yellow, red, and
blue) and two achromatic (white and black) fundamentals
represents the next step in three-dimensional color order
after Tobias Mayer’s double tetrahedral solid of 1756 and
Johann Heinrich Lambert’s single tetrahedron of 1772.
Translation and essay © 2009
Rolf G. Kuehni.
der Pigmente von größter Leuchtkraft (Theory of pigments of greatest lightness), by Erwin Schrödinger.
Annalen der Physik 4, 62 (1920) 603-622
An English translation with a short biographical introduction by Rolf G. Kuehni and a technical introduction by Michael H. Brill.
Original paper ©Wiley-VCH Verlag, Weinheim, Germany;
Translation and biographical introduction © 2010 and 2011 Rolf G. Kuehni;
Technical introduction © 2010 and 2011 Michael H. Brill.
As is well known, the color of the light reflected from a painted pigment layer never reaches the same degree of saturation that pure spectral lights have, but always appears more or less whitish compared to the pure light of the same hue. It can be generated from the pure light with the addition of a certain amount of white light. The impossibility of realizing colors of spectral saturation with pigments is not a technical problem but to a degree fundamental. Its cause is that the mixture of two spectral lights that in the spectrum are located not too far from each other have, in mixture, a specific hue that lies between those of the two components but, in general, is more whitish than that of the spectral light. To obtain the full saturation of a spectral light the pigment would have to reflect only an infinitesimally narrow wavelength range and absorb all others. But, as already Helmholtz mentioned, its appearance would be very dark, in the limiting case black.