The Colour Reference Library

The Colour Reference Library (CRL) at the Royal College of Art is one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of colour-related publications in the world. Containing well over a thousand books, together with pamphlets, swatches and journals, the library covers numerous aspects of the vast field of colour-based studies, encompassing art and science, theory and practice.

The collection’s many strengths include sections on colour and human psychology, the history of dyestuffs, and the 19th-century study of decorative ornament, with tangential subjects ranging from colour healing to camouflage. The greatest colour theorists, from Newton and Goethe to Chevreul and Albers, are well represented through their key works, alongside other significant, if lesser-known, figures such as Mary Gartside and Maxwell Armfield. The CRL also includes a wide selection of published colour systems and standards, ranging in subject from lead paint to the pigmentation of human skin. Despite its apparent focus on a single subject, the span and application of the collection is considerable: it is at once historical and contemporary, practical and theoretical, arcane and accessible.

RCA Special Collections is located on the top floor of the Library in the Common Room Block of the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2EU. Please e-mail special-collections@rca.ac.uk or telephone +44 (0)20 7590 4234 to arrange a visit. See the Colour Reference Library website for more information.

Closer to home, GSA Library also holds lots of reference material relating to colour and colour theory in Special Collections. See the guide to the collection here. Glasgow even has its very own Colour Studies Group. See their website for more information.

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