Appraisal Video: (2:49)
Books & Manuscripts
Books and Manuscripts Dept., Senior Vice President
GUEST: It was just in a box of books and I collect old books. So I pulled it out and I looked through it, and I just really was intrigued by all the colors and stuff, so I bought it.
APPRAISER: All the colors. It's called “Color Standards and Color Nomenclature,” by Robert Ridgway. Have you found anything out about Mr. Ridgway?
GUEST: I couldn't find out anything, so I gave the book to my daughter Ina.
GUEST: And she passed it on to me, and I did a little research, and I kinda thumbed through an encyclopedia, and I really couldn't find anything about the book, but I found out a little bit about the author, and, uh, that he was an ornithologist.
GUEST: and he was head of a bird department in a museum back east.
APPRAISER: Exactly, he's identified here as Curator of the Division of Birds, United States National Museum.
GUEST: And then I also just read just a little snippet of where he was associated with John Muir.
APPRAISER: Another great naturalist. And I know another book by Ridgway about birds, “Birds of North and Middle America,” but I didn't realize he had made this book. And this book, as he explains in his preface, was really an attempt as a scientist to standardize the names of color in a similar way that weights and measures had been standardized. And the beauty of the book, as you know, are the plates. Now it's interesting. There's a caution here printed that the plates should not be exposed to light or they could fade, and clearly, they haven't been, because they're beautifully vibrant.
GUEST: They are very pretty.
APPRAISER: Let's look at some of them. Now, in 1886, Ridgway published a book called “Color Nomenclature for Naturalists” that illustrated 186 colors. This book has, if you remember, 1,115 colors, plus on each page there's-- for guidance, control-- white and black, as well. So there's over 1,400 pieces of color, all of which had to be cut out and mounted by hand. You've noticed these aren't printed on the page, but mounted.
GUEST: Mm-hmm. Yes.
APPRAISER: I'd hate to be painting my house based on these because you get a whole great variety.
GUEST: It is hard to choose your favorite one.
APPRAISER: Exactly. But I think we agreed that we both like purple, so let's show that.
GUEST: I love purple.
APPRAISER: The Ridgway Color System never caught on. So this is really, I think, a testament to Ridgway and his tenacity. No commercial publisher could have taken this on. I don't know if you noticed it was published by the author.
GUEST: Oh, no, I didn't see that.
APPRAISER: The edition must have been very small, certainly less than 500 copies, and probably closer to 300.
APPRAISER: So it maybe failed as a scientific work, but I think it succeeds as a work of art. How much did the box cost?
GUEST: No, I just bought the one book.
GUEST: It cost me a dollar.
APPRAISER: Well, you did very well. I would certainly think, in this condition, which is very good, this copy would sell for between $700 and $800.
GUEST: Oh, you're kidding. (laughs) You're kidding!
APPRAISER: I'm not kidding.
GUEST: Wow. Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: And it's an exciting book because of the contents. I appreciate your bringing it in.
GUEST: That's amazing. Oh, I can't believe it.