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Theory of Color News

Official news for the translation and development of Goethe's work, theory of color.
Published by brendan on May 15 2016

Work has been steadily progressing with the presentation of Goethe's Theory of Colours book. We now have all the plates (including Eastlake's plates) on the website. Many of the images have been added to the text so they can be viewed while reading.

At this juncture, we are forming a group who will be reading through the text with the following goals:

  1. Identify areas where Goethe's plates are talked about but not explicitly referenced, so they can be placed within the text for viewing.
  2. Create high quality digital representations (which will yield better prism experiments) of existing plates, and create new graphics that will facilitate experiments talked about but from which there is no existing plate to conduct the experiment.
  3. Photo document each prism experiment, so the results of the experiment can be clearly referenced.


This will in turn lead to establishing a referenced and standardized set of experimentally based colours. There has been long running debates about the nuances of the colour goethe was talking about. Is blue a ultramarine blue or cyan? What is the difference between "pupur", red & magenta. Is there subtle differences between the standardized colours we know today and the colours Goethe had in mind? For the first time in the 200 years since Goethe wrote his "masterpiece" we will be answering, documenting and referencing these questions systematically.

Join us as we embark on a journey of exploration armed with prisms and cameras. Our group will meet by-weekly in the Greater Toronto Area.

Paragraph 199-204
We place before us the simplest object, a light disk on a dark ground (G.II.1.A). A displacement occurs with regard to this object, if we apparently extend its outline from the centre by magnifying it. This may be done with any convex glass, and in this case we see a blue edge (G.II.1.B).

We can, to appearance, contract the circumference of the same light disk towards the centre by diminishing the object; the edge will then appear yellow (G.II.1.C). This may be done with a concave glass, which, however, should not be ground thin like common eye-glasses, but must have some substance. In order, however, to make this experiment at once with the convex glass, let a smaller black disk be inserted within the light disk on a black ground. If we magnify the black disk on a white ground with a convex glass, the same result takes place as if we diminished the white disk; for we extend the black outline upon the white, and we thus perceive the yellow edge together with the blue edge (G.II.1.D).

These two appearances, the blue and yellow, exhibit themselves in and upon the white: they both assume a reddish hue, in proportion as they mingle with the black.

In this short statement we have described the primordial phenomena of all appearance of colour occasioned by refraction. These undoubtedly may be repeated, varied, and rendered more striking; may be combined, complicated, confused; but, after all, may be still restored to their original simplicity.

In examining the process of the experiment just given, we find that in the one case we have, to appearance, extended the white edge upon the dark surface; in the other we have extended the dark edge upon the white surface, supplanting one by the other, pushing one over the other. We will now endeavour, step by step, to analyse these and similar cases.

If we cause the white disk to move, in appearance, entirely from its place, which can be done effectually by prisms, it will be coloured according to the direction in which it apparently moves, in conformity with the above laws. If we look at the disk G.II.2.a through a prism, so that it appear moved to G.II.2.b, the outer edge will appear blue and blue-red, according to the law of the figure G.II.1.B, the other edge being yellow, and yellow-red, according to the law of the figure G.II.1.C. For in the first case the white figure is, as it were, extended over the dark boundary, and in the other case the dark boundary is passed over the white figure. The same happens if the disk is, to appearance, moved from G.II.2.a to G.II.2.c, from G.II.2.a to G.II.2.d, and so throughout the circle.
Published by johnpenner on Oct 24 2015

Image Remarks on Colour comprises material written by Wittgenstein in the last eighteen months of his life. In it, he works concentratedly on the treatment of colour. The principal theme are the features of different colours, of different kinds of colour (metallic colour, the colours of flames, etc.) and of luminosity—a theme which Wittgenstein treats in such a way as to destroy the traditional idea that colour is a simple and logically uniform kind of thing.

Someone who agrees with Goethe believes that Goethe correctly recognized
the nature of colour. And nature here is not what results from experiments,
but it lies in the concept of colour (Wittgenstein)

Published by brendan on Dec 16 2014

I wanted to take a brief moment to bring all the theoryofcolor.org enthusiasts up to date with our continued Wikipedia involvement.

Our involvement stretches back some time with founding member John Penner creating many of the Wikipedia pages for Goethe's Theory of Colours in different languages. John provided content and released graphics into the open source which now act as a sort of flagship in the world of Goethe's colour theory.

We have also just begun to expand our copy of Goethe's Theory of Colours with Wikipedia links to many people that the book refers to. This often takes a lot of research as the names Goethe mentions are very often only a last name. It would have been obvious to the select educated demographic reading his work 200 years ago who these people are, but now many of these characters can be almost forgotten. To see how we are expanding Goethe's Theory of Colours to become more of a study guide that assists you in understanding color and the history in which this knoledge is revealed, you can vidit Theory of Colours.

Image One such character that was almost lost to history was Jermiah Harman Esq. Thanks to founding member Brendan Ferguson for recently creating a Wikipedia page for Harma n detailing the life of this promenate figure. Charles Lock Eastlake dedicated the translation of Theory of Colours to Harman. Harmon was a much noted English banker who like Eastlake, also lived in London. Through innovation in banking practises, he was able to bring much wealth to Britian and the world. After his retirement Harmon would become known for his generosity in forming and funding charitable organizations and also in his support for a wide range of art. Since Eastlake was President of the Royal Acadamy, secretary of the Fine Arts Commity, Keeper of the National Galley and held several other prestigious titles, Harman would have known Eastlake through the acquisition of his "most beloved art collection" which included several of Eastlake's paintings including "Lord Byron's Dream" (depicted) and "A Roman Peasant".

Published by brendan on Nov 22 2014

Image We have made our audiobook more flexible and filled out a lot of information to assist you in your reading.

  • The audiobook now has its own homepage
  • You can download the entire audiobook in zipped format
  • The audiobook is now available though a Podcast Feed
  • You can subscribe to the audiobook podcast through iTunes


Hope you enjoy these new ways to listen to the Theory of Colour Audiobook.

Goethe's Theory of Colour Audiobook Homepage?
Published by brendan on Apr 24 2014
Our website launch is around the corner. We have currently posted the best copies of both the German and English copies of Goethe's Theory of Colours. Both have been an enormous amount of work and the English, although still being a little rough around the edges, exceeds in volumes the best available digital copy of the book. We are still in the middle of creating our HTML version of the 1910 Translation of Theory of Colours and would appreciate any help you can offer, to help get our community presentable for the upcoming official website launch.
Published by brendan on Apr 06 2014

I wanted to let our users know that Dale Brunsvold of Rudolf Steiner Audio, is in the process of reading the 1910 English translation of Theory of Colours. We have the artwork for the new recording ready to go and it will be available here free of charge in a short period of time. We want to thank Dale for his considerable time and effort that he has already put into producing this audiobook for our community.

Check back soon for a download link.

Published by brendan on Apr 05 2014
Sorry for any inconvenience the website being down caused. We have eh issue resolved now and are back putting the website together for the use of the community. While we were developing the website, we triggered a error in the underling code that the website is built from (tikiwiki). It caused the server to crashing bringing down a few dozen websites in the process. Subsequently, our website was banned and taken off our previous host. I (brendan) have spent hours working with the very kind developers of tikiwiki and have found the issue that was causing the problem. They are putting together a patch as we speak, and we have a workaround in the mean time. It has unfortunately put us behind our initial schedule, but we are back to the grind in polishing the website off.
Published by brendan on Apr 04 2014
Cover of original 1810 version of Theory of Colours.

Good day folks. I want to ask everyone out there who may be interested to help in formatting the original German text. It's not as glorious as working with the English or helping with the translation effort, but I thought I might make some points for your consideration.

There is currently a formatted German text, but when our German text is complete will be the best formatted text in existence. The German formatting goes as far as keeping the original layout of the book, but Goethe frequently references other parts of his work. Ours will be linked so you can see the other paragraphs in an instant. The formatted original has none of the images that Goethe included in the book. Our text will not only include these images, but we will break them apart from the original centerfold arrangement and place the images beside the parts of the text that reference them. Our images taken from the original work are also color enhanced and corrected to bring them to there original brilliance of 200 years ago. When the book is complete, we will be making it available in many formats including iPad compatible formats on our website, free book archive websites and also Apples iTunes Store.

The original formatted text is also needed before we begin our task of collaboratively enhancing the book with photos and video of the color phenomenon spoken of in it.

So you are helping to make history by your contributions.

If your interested in helping, give me (brendan) a shout and sign up for a free account on theoryofcolor.org .