Patrick Syme

Werner's Nomenclature of Colours
Patrick Syme RSA, 1821


[Gifted by William Fettes Douglas PPRSA, in memory of Patrick Syme]


Patrick Syme RSA (1774-1845) was a painter and was prominent in the foundation of the [Royal] Scottish Academy in 1826.


His translation of Abraham Gottleb Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours from 1814 was an amazing venture; an early artist’s book of sorts with just 100 copies published. Each colour square was painstakingly hand-coloured by an Edinburgh engraver, although some say by the artist and his family, with Syme ensuring the quality control of each colour, from volume to volume.

Charles Darwin took a copy of the book during the voyage of the Beagle to identify and record the colours of specimens and many of Darwin’s Zoology notes quote colours from Syme’s translated work.