Almost a poem: the naming of colours

I was in Cambridge today for an event with the Skylark Literary Agency (discussing children’s writing in general and an early draft of my new novel in particular). While I was there, I dropped into the Fitzwilliam Museum which currently has an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. Vivid, burnished, brilliant: they are a glorious collection… And I found myself equally entranced by the names of the colours that their makers had used.

Cinnabar
Vermilion
Minium
Red lead
Red earths and ochres
Brown earths: siennas and umbers
Armenian cochineal
Lac
Root of the rubia tinctorum
Madder
Murex shell
Gold leaf
Shell gold
Silver leaf
Mosaic gold
Gypsum and red bole
Yellow earths and ochres
Orpiment
Realgar
Lead tin yellow
Ultramarine
Azurite
Smalt
Lead white
Calcite
Carbon
Stibnite
Pyrolusite

Isn’t that a luscious list?!