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The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding from Antiquity to Modern Times

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The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding from Antiquity to Modern Times

By Joachim Müllerschön

Norderstedt: BoD -Books on Demand, 2019

7-3/4” x 11”, hardcover, 200 pages

Illustrations, notes, references. €76.80

ISBN: 9783749419883


Every once in a while a new book is published that defies simple classification but, simultaneously, turns out to contain so much useful and intriguing information that it cannot be ignored. The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding is just such a work. Its title would classify it instantaneously as esoterica, of interest only to a minute audience of obsessive researchers, but the reality of this book is very different.


One central component of Müllerschön’s work is a breathtakingly thorough chronological analysis of the pigments and binders used through history to manufacture blue paints. This alone makes The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding essential reading for professionals working in most aspects of historic restoration, renovation, or reconstruction, well beyond the confines of maritime contexts. Within the narrower field of ship models, reference to this analysis will be essential for restorers of historic models and those wishing to create accurate new models. His chronology provides all the data necessary to ensure that the specific pigments and binders are appropriate for the period of the model.


The second main component illustrates the use of this great variety of blue paints. Müllerschön draws on museum and gallery collections for images of models and contemporary artwork that demonstrate the range of usages through time.


A third possibly quite fortuitous element is the history of ships and boats that Müllerschön’s illustrations create. It is quite possible to read The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding as an outline history of shipbuilding from ancient Egypt to present-day recreations of historic vessels.


A work like this ultimately stands or falls on the quality of its presentation. Print-on-demand works generally do not have a high reputation but The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding defies this. The quality of image reproduction and typeface presentation is excellent and adds greatly to the work’s utility.


The Colour Blue in Historic Shipbuilding confounds expectations. Its topic indeed is esoteric but the book’s content and presentation give it a wide-ranging value and importance far beyond the limitations of its title


Paul E. Fontenoy

Albuquerque, New Mexico


This review is provided courtesy of the Nautical Research Guild.

Edited by prmitch
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I will also note the book covers some of the economics behind pigments. If that seems odd, think about the cost of covering a ship in gold (or gold leaf) and you will be on the right track. The economics and the timelines for various pigments give the modeler a decoder ring to plausibly infer color recipes and choices for their model. Equally so, he covers binders as well. It is combination of pigment and binder that keep color on a ship or ship model; which age together and give the color we see at any given time.

The author leans on German sources more than English language sources. That’s a win for those looking for novel sources to examine. (Sidebar: if this topic is of interest, I recommend the four volumes of Artists' Pigments: A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics.)  I will also note the lack of an index and some of the color balance is off in some images but I applaud focus and scope of the work and look forward to another seven or eight volumes! :)

Edited by EricWilliamMarshall
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