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Journal of the Optical Society of America A

Journal of the Optical Society of America A


  • Editor: Franco Gori
  • Vol. 29, Iss. 2 — Feb. 1, 2012
  • pp: A346–A352

A three-dimensional color space from the 13th century

Hannah E. Smithson, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Giles E. M. Gasper, Mike Huxtable, Tom C. B. McLeish, and Cecilia Panti  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA A, Vol. 29, Issue 2, pp. A346-A352 (2012)

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We present a new commentary on Robert Grosseteste’s De colore, a short treatise that dates from the early 13th century, in which Grosseteste constructs a linguistic combinatorial account of color. In contrast to other commentaries (e.g., Kuehni & Schwarz, Color Ordered: A Survey of Color Order Systems from Antiquity to the Present, 2007, p. 36), we argue that the color space described by Grosseteste is explicitly three-dimensional. We seek the appropriate translation of Grosseteste’s key terms, making reference both to Grosseteste’s other works and the broader intellectual context of the 13th century, and to modern color spaces.

© 2012 Optical Society of America

OCIS Codes
(330.1690) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color
(330.1720) Vision, color, and visual optics : Color vision
(330.1730) Vision, color, and visual optics : Colorimetry

ToC Category:
Color sensitivity and appearance

Original Manuscript: September 1, 2011
Revised Manuscript: December 6, 2011
Manuscript Accepted: December 7, 2011
Published: February 1, 2012

Virtual Issues
Vol. 7, Iss. 4 Virtual Journal for Biomedical Optics

Hannah E. Smithson, Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Giles E. M. Gasper, Mike Huxtable, Tom C. B. McLeish, and Cecilia Panti, "A three-dimensional color space from the 13th century," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 29, A346-A352 (2012)

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  1. G. Dinkova-Brunn, G. E. M. Gasper, M. Huxtable, T. C. B. McLeish, C. Panti, and H. E. Smithson, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Forthcoming). NB: this edition includes a full critical apparatus with descriptions of all of the 11 manuscript witnesses for the De colore, which have all been examined and whose variants have been recorded (including those relevant to the issues of 9 or 14 colors and the missing obscura in the majority of the tradition). No further manuscripts of the De colore have been discovered since the list of manuscripts made by S. H. Thomson, The Writings of Robert Grosseteste Bishop of Lincoln (1235–1253) (Cambridge University Press, 1940). Harrison Thomson dates the treatise on p. 93 to 1220; the new edition disputes this, positing 1225 as the most likely date.
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