1912 Ridgway “Color Standards”

Value (2014) | $700 Auction$800 Auction
Watch  

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:
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.

APPRAISER:
And...?

GUEST 2: Yeah, she passed it on to me and I did a little research and I found out a little bit about the author and, uh, that he was an ornithologist...

APPRAISER:
Right, he's identified here as curator of the Division of Birds, United States National Museum. 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 names of color in a similar way that weights and measures had been standardized. And the beauty of the book... are the plates.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
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 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 2: 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 liked 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.

GUEST:
Wow.

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. 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:
(laughing): Oh, you're kidding!

APPRAISER:
I'm not kidding.

GUEST 2: Wow.

GUEST:
Oh, my gosh.

APPRAISER:
And it's an exciting book because of the contents. I appreciate you bringing it. That's amazing! Oh, my God.

GUEST:
I can't believe it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Sotheby's
New York, NY
Update (2014)
$700 Auction$800 Auction
Appraised value (2000)
$700 Auction$800 Auction
Event
Tulsa, OK (July 08, 2000)
Period
20th Century
Form
Book
Material
Paper

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