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Book of the Week — Remarks on Colour

“A colour shines in its surroundings. (Just as eyes only smile in a face)” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Remarks on Colour
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951)
Pasadena, CA: Archetype Press, Art Center College of Design, 2000
xBF 789 C7 W513 2000

During the last few years of his life, Ludwig Wittgenstein was suffering from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was unable to write, and more importantly, he was struggling to think philosophically. Despite all this, he continued to work on a number of separate manuscripts. Remarks on Colour and On Certainty were among the notes left by Wittgenstein.

Written the year before Wittgenstein’s death, Remarks on Colour is considered to be his most difficult piece to read, particularly on account of its fragmentation. The work is structured in 350 separate “propositions” on the principal theme of color: different colors, different kinds of color, and of luminosity — emphasizing that our traditional concept of color, being a simple and logically uniform thing, is incorrect. His propositions are presented as questions, inviting the reader to evaluate their own perceptions of the color phenomena.

Wittgenstein was interested in the fact that some propositions about color are apparently neither empirical nor, exactly, a priori, but something in between. He believed that, as such, any philosophical puzzles about color could only be resolved through the investigation of language and language-games. For instance, he asks his readers, “Why shouldn’t I call a somewhat greenish yellow a “bluish yellow” and green an intermediary color between blue and yellow, and a strongly bluish green a somewhat yellowish blue?”

Let that sink in for just one moment…

Using Wittgenstein’s essay as inspiration, the Archetype Press transforms page into a playground of color and typography, manipulating our perception of light and shapes, as Wittgenstein suggests. From the colophon: “Each page is printed in various colors with one or more runs printed letterpress on Vandercook proof presses at Archetype Press, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California in the Spring of 2000. Font consist of metal foundry type, and digital type in the form of photopolymer relief plates and inkjet printers.” Limited edition of 42 copies. Rare Books copy is no.1

Recommend reading:
Remarks on Colour
Ludwig Wittgenstein, trans. Linda L. McAlister and Margarete Schattle
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977
BF789 C7 W513 1977 (Level 2)

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