Abstract

We present a new commentary on Robert Grosseteste’s De colore, a short treatise that dates from the early 13th century, in which Grosseteste constructs a linguistic combinatorial account of color. In contrast to other commentaries (e.g., Kuehni & Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Order Systems from Antiquity to the Present, 2007, p. 36), we argue that the color space described by Grosseteste is explicitly three-dimensional. We seek the appropriate translation of Grosseteste’s key terms, making reference both to Grosseteste’s other works and the broader intellectual context of the 13th century, and to modern color spaces.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

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  1. G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.
  2. Aristotle, De Anima (Penguin Classics, 1986).
  3. Aristotle, De Sensu et Sensato. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, J. Barnes ed., Vol. 1 (Princeton University Press, 1984).
  4. “De coloribus,” in Aristotle: Minor Works I (Harvard University Press, 1936).
  5. B. Anglicus, On the properties of things. John Trevisa’s translation of De proprietatibus rerum. A critical text, M. C. Seymour, ed., Vol. 2, (Oxford University Press, 1975).
  6. S. Batman, Batman upon Bartholomew (East, 1582).
  7. L. Baur, Die philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln. Zum erstenmal vollständig in kritischer Ausgabe (Aschendorf, 1912).
  8. “Roberti Lincolniensis bonarum artium optimi interpretis opuscula dignissima nunc primum in lucem edita et accuratissime emendata” ( p. f. 4v (a-b) 1514).
  9. R. C. Dales, “Robert Grosseteste’s scientific works,” Isis 52, 381–402 (1961).
    [CrossRef]
  10. B. S. Eastwood, “Robert Grosseteste’s theory of the rainbow: A chapter in the history of non-experimental science,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 19, 313–332 (1966).
  11. C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, “Who invented the color wheel?” Color Res. Appl. 7, 217–230 (1982).
    [CrossRef]
  12. A. C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science 1100-1700 (Oxford University Press, 1953).
  13. R. G. Kuehni and A. Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Systems from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007).
  14. H. Grassmann, “Zur Theorie der Farbenmischung,” Ann. Phys. Chem. 89, 69–84 (1853).
  15. H. Bocksch, “Duplizitätstheorie und Farbenkonstanz,” Z. Psychol. 102, 338–449 (1927).
  16. W. S. Stiles and J. M. Burch, “NPL colour-matching investigation: Final report,” Opt. Acta 6, 1–26 (1959).
    [CrossRef]
  17. J. D. Moreland and P. Bhatt, Retinal Distribution of Macular Pigment, in Colour Vision Deficiencies, Vol. VII, G. Verriest, ed. (Dr. W. Junk, 1984).
  18. D. B. Judd, “Hue, saturation and lightness of surface colors with chromatic illumination,” J. Opt. Soc. Am. 30, 2–32 (1940).
    [CrossRef]
  19. E. H. Adelson, “On seeing stuff: The perception of materials by humans and machines,” Proc. SPIE 4299, 1–12 (2001).
  20. J. D. Mollon, “Monge,” Vis. Neurosci. 23, 297–309 (2006).

2006 (1)

J. D. Mollon, “Monge,” Vis. Neurosci. 23, 297–309 (2006).

2001 (1)

E. H. Adelson, “On seeing stuff: The perception of materials by humans and machines,” Proc. SPIE 4299, 1–12 (2001).

1982 (1)

C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, “Who invented the color wheel?” Color Res. Appl. 7, 217–230 (1982).
[CrossRef]

1966 (1)

B. S. Eastwood, “Robert Grosseteste’s theory of the rainbow: A chapter in the history of non-experimental science,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 19, 313–332 (1966).

1961 (1)

R. C. Dales, “Robert Grosseteste’s scientific works,” Isis 52, 381–402 (1961).
[CrossRef]

1959 (1)

W. S. Stiles and J. M. Burch, “NPL colour-matching investigation: Final report,” Opt. Acta 6, 1–26 (1959).
[CrossRef]

1940 (1)

1927 (1)

H. Bocksch, “Duplizitätstheorie und Farbenkonstanz,” Z. Psychol. 102, 338–449 (1927).

1853 (1)

H. Grassmann, “Zur Theorie der Farbenmischung,” Ann. Phys. Chem. 89, 69–84 (1853).

Adelson, E. H.

E. H. Adelson, “On seeing stuff: The perception of materials by humans and machines,” Proc. SPIE 4299, 1–12 (2001).

Aristotle,

Aristotle, De Anima (Penguin Classics, 1986).

Barnes, J.

Aristotle, De Sensu et Sensato. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, J. Barnes ed., Vol. 1 (Princeton University Press, 1984).

Batman, S.

S. Batman, Batman upon Bartholomew (East, 1582).

Baur, L.

L. Baur, Die philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln. Zum erstenmal vollständig in kritischer Ausgabe (Aschendorf, 1912).

Bhatt, P.

J. D. Moreland and P. Bhatt, Retinal Distribution of Macular Pigment, in Colour Vision Deficiencies, Vol. VII, G. Verriest, ed. (Dr. W. Junk, 1984).

Bocksch, H.

H. Bocksch, “Duplizitätstheorie und Farbenkonstanz,” Z. Psychol. 102, 338–449 (1927).

Burch, J. M.

W. S. Stiles and J. M. Burch, “NPL colour-matching investigation: Final report,” Opt. Acta 6, 1–26 (1959).
[CrossRef]

Crombie, A. C.

A. C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science 1100-1700 (Oxford University Press, 1953).

Dales, R. C.

R. C. Dales, “Robert Grosseteste’s scientific works,” Isis 52, 381–402 (1961).
[CrossRef]

Dinkova-Brunn, G.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Eastwood, B. S.

B. S. Eastwood, “Robert Grosseteste’s theory of the rainbow: A chapter in the history of non-experimental science,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 19, 313–332 (1966).

Feller, R. L.

C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, “Who invented the color wheel?” Color Res. Appl. 7, 217–230 (1982).
[CrossRef]

Gasper, G. E. M.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Grassmann, H.

H. Grassmann, “Zur Theorie der Farbenmischung,” Ann. Phys. Chem. 89, 69–84 (1853).

Huxtable, M.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Judd, D. B.

Kuehni, R. G.

R. G. Kuehni and A. Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Systems from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007).

McLeish, T. C. B.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Mollon, J. D.

J. D. Mollon, “Monge,” Vis. Neurosci. 23, 297–309 (2006).

Moreland, J. D.

J. D. Moreland and P. Bhatt, Retinal Distribution of Macular Pigment, in Colour Vision Deficiencies, Vol. VII, G. Verriest, ed. (Dr. W. Junk, 1984).

Panti, C.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Parkhurst, C.

C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, “Who invented the color wheel?” Color Res. Appl. 7, 217–230 (1982).
[CrossRef]

Schwarz, A.

R. G. Kuehni and A. Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Systems from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Seymour, M. C.

B. Anglicus, On the properties of things. John Trevisa’s translation of De proprietatibus rerum. A critical text, M. C. Seymour, ed., Vol. 2, (Oxford University Press, 1975).

Smithson, H. E.

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Stiles, W. S.

W. S. Stiles and J. M. Burch, “NPL colour-matching investigation: Final report,” Opt. Acta 6, 1–26 (1959).
[CrossRef]

Ann. Phys. Chem. (1)

H. Grassmann, “Zur Theorie der Farbenmischung,” Ann. Phys. Chem. 89, 69–84 (1853).

Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences (1)

B. S. Eastwood, “Robert Grosseteste’s theory of the rainbow: A chapter in the history of non-experimental science,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 19, 313–332 (1966).

Color Res. Appl. (1)

C. Parkhurst and R. L. Feller, “Who invented the color wheel?” Color Res. Appl. 7, 217–230 (1982).
[CrossRef]

Isis (1)

R. C. Dales, “Robert Grosseteste’s scientific works,” Isis 52, 381–402 (1961).
[CrossRef]

J. Opt. Soc. Am. (1)

Opt. Acta (1)

W. S. Stiles and J. M. Burch, “NPL colour-matching investigation: Final report,” Opt. Acta 6, 1–26 (1959).
[CrossRef]

Proc. SPIE (1)

E. H. Adelson, “On seeing stuff: The perception of materials by humans and machines,” Proc. SPIE 4299, 1–12 (2001).

Vis. Neurosci. (1)

J. D. Mollon, “Monge,” Vis. Neurosci. 23, 297–309 (2006).

Z. Psychol. (1)

H. Bocksch, “Duplizitätstheorie und Farbenkonstanz,” Z. Psychol. 102, 338–449 (1927).

Other (11)

J. D. Moreland and P. Bhatt, Retinal Distribution of Macular Pigment, in Colour Vision Deficiencies, Vol. VII, G. Verriest, ed. (Dr. W. Junk, 1984).

A. C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science 1100-1700 (Oxford University Press, 1953).

R. G. Kuehni and A. Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Systems from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007).

G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.

Aristotle, De Anima (Penguin Classics, 1986).

Aristotle, De Sensu et Sensato. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, J. Barnes ed., Vol. 1 (Princeton University Press, 1984).

“De coloribus,” in Aristotle: Minor Works I (Harvard University Press, 1936).

B. Anglicus, On the properties of things. John Trevisa’s translation of De proprietatibus rerum. A critical text, M. C. Seymour, ed., Vol. 2, (Oxford University Press, 1975).

S. Batman, Batman upon Bartholomew (East, 1582).

L. Baur, Die philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln. Zum erstenmal vollständig in kritischer Ausgabe (Aschendorf, 1912).

“Roberti Lincolniensis bonarum artium optimi interpretis opuscula dignissima nunc primum in lucem edita et accuratissime emendata” ( p. f. 4v (a-b) 1514).

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Figures (2)

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

(a) RGB color space; (b) a rotation of the RGB space, in which the achromatic axis (R=G=B) is vertically aligned; (c) achromatic axis and a chromatic plane, spanned by a red-green and a blue-yellow axis; (d) achromatic plane, showing variation in hue (azimuthally) and saturation (radially).

Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

(a) Cubic representation of the geometry described in the De colore, with whiteness at the corner (111) and blackness at the corner (000). (b) Three vectors identified by reduction of one of the three qualities. (c) Three vectors identified by simultaneous reduction of two of the three qualities. (d) Vector identified by simultaneous reduction of all three qualities.

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