The Natural System of Colours

damselfliesMoses Harris (15 April 1730 – c. 1788)

In 1766, one hundred years after Newton’s separation of white light through a prism, a book appeared in England with the title The Natural System of Colours. In this work, Moses Harris, the English entomologist and engraver, examines the work of Isaac Newton and attempts to reveal the multitude of colours which can be created from three basic ones. As a naturalist, Harris wishes to understand the relationships between the colours, and how they are coded, and his book attempts to explain the principles, “materially, or by the painters art”, by which further colours can be produced from red, yellow and blue.