'Greens,' from Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, with Additions, Arranged so as to Render it Highly Useful to the Arts and Sciences, Particularly Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, and Morbid Anatomy. Annexed to Which are Examples Selected from Well-Known Objects in the Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Kingdoms. 2nd edition. Edinburgh: Printed for W. Blackwood, 1821
Colour charts for use in taxonomic descriptions of plants and animals were published from the last years of the seventeenth century. In this handy book—the very copy Darwin took with him on the Beagle—paint samples are given names, and described with reference to animals, plants, and minerals so as to help define the nuances of a particular colour.
Patrick Syme was an Edinburgh miniature painter. In his introduction, he emphasises the importance of colour in describing all varieties of object; together with written description and outline drawing it achieved 'the most perfect representation,' next best to seeing the real thing. In the course of his natural history research, Darwin described a number of colours using the terms given in this book.
Darwin saw his first glaciers not in the Alps, like most Europeans, but in Tierra del Fuego, during the Beagle voyage. In January 1833, he recorded his first sighting in a small field notebook: 'many glaciers beryl blue most beautiful contrasted with snow', a term he would have derived from consulting Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, a book which Darwin consulted widely on the voyage. Syme, compared beryl to other colours in the natural world, such as 'Egg of Thrush' and the 'Under Disk of Wild Rose Leaves'.
Darwin Library, Cambridge University Library