i wrote this post back in 2011 and i still have cause to refer to it today. i thought i would update the post, since it continues to be relevant. I can't read enough about colour, dye, textiles and paint, so please feel free to make more suggestions.
On GoodReads.com, there's a list called The History of Colors you might enjoy.
the first book i ever read specifically about colour. it’s full of wondrous tales about colour in art, fashion, design, health, music, pretty much everything you could imagine. there’s a wee bit of science for the layperson too, explaining how colour works. here is the story of colour from the cave to the canvas, from the indigo workers to the Spanish ox-blood coloured fatty beef stew. this is a collection of fascinating stories.
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
the history of cochineal, the brightest, strongest red in the world
The Primary Colors: Three Essays by Alexander Theroux
blue, red and yellow in history, art, textiles, literature. love the way this book wanders and takes imaginative leaps from one instance of blue to the next. from eye colour: Hitler’s eyes were blue to a blue vegetable dye made from human urine. Given to me by a dear friend when i was in hospital in 2009. She knows me well.
And The Secondary Colors, also by Alexander Theroux
On Being Blue by William H. Gass (recently deceased). This book had more to do with expressions that used blue in them, rather than about the colour's history and properties.
Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, & Violet by Joann Eckstut - a beautiful coffee table book given to me by a dear friend, the same who gave me the Primary Colors
Kandinsky's Concering the Spiritual In Art has a big section on the psychology and theory of colour from 1911.
Pigments Through the Ages
a brief description of the history of specific pigments and their symbolism, often with references to art.
Crayons: Crayola colours
the colour clock represents time as a hexidecimal colour value.
Lilac, the color of half mourning, doomed hotels and fashionable feeling by Katie Kelleher, the Paris Review
The Racist Message Hidden in a Masterpiece by Kelly Grovier in BBC Culture (thanks to Eric Schmaltz, author of the wondrous Surfaces (Invisible Publishing, 2018) for this link.
The Color Thesaurus by Ingrid Sundberg
The Life and Death of Mummy Brown by Philip McCouat in Journal of Art and Society
From Crushed Bugs to Cow Urine - the History of Colours in Pictures by David Coles in the Guardian
part of my interest in colour comes from my synaesthesia. i have grapheme synaesthesia which means i associate letters, numbers, people's names, days of the week, months and a few other things with colour. for example pain for me can be a green ache, a yellow throb, a white sharp jab and sometimes other colours like brown, purple and red come into play.
Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses has a great section on synaesthesia; in his memoir Speak, Memory, Nabokov talks about how musical notes evoke textures for him.
Another good book is Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds by Patricia Lynn Duffy.
As a child, i didn't know that i was doing anything unusual when i mixed up colour and names, for example i would sometimes call someone green if their name was Steve. i got 4 and 5 confused because they were blue and green and that seemed similar to me. at some point, i was trotted out at parties and asked to tell people what colour their names were, like a child psychic or carny act. my sister wrote down the correspondences and would test me on them every once in a while and they stayed constant. i've done tests and my synaesthaesia seems to be still very high. if you'd like to do a test, you can take one here.
after being treated a bit like a circus act, i figured i was the only person with this thing, i didn't know it was a condition and i didn't know it could be quite extreme for some people. some people have severe physical reactions to colour or smell or other senses. at 18 in university, i was exposed to Baudelaire's Correspondances and Rimbaud's Voyelles, two poems where senses are blended. Voyelles was particularly exciting for me and confusing. Rimbaud's matches were not my own.
how does this show up in my writing? when i first started to workshop my poems with others, i was told that my colour associations were arbitrary and made no sense. they probably still don't, but it's not something i have heard in the last 5 years or so.
i'm also quite gaga for visual poetry and visual art where colour is prominently featured, such as abstract expressionism, Mark Rothko's pieces.
i found it difficult when i was in hospital due to the lack of colour or the lack of strong colours. everything was white, pale blue, pale yellow. these pale colours were also in my delusions.
if you know of other sites or books on colour or synaesthesia, please let me know. and if you are a colour lover like me, you're a kindred spirit. i'd love to hear more about your colour proclivities.