December 20, 2016

Color Our Collections

        It’s hard to step foot in a mall or store these days without seeing the fancy coloring books that are all the rage.  If you enjoy coloring, you should definitely check out the coloring pages provided by a number of museums and libraries, featuring items from their collections.  I’m particularly partial because any librarian looking for black and white images suitable for coloring is likely to end up with a preponderance of wood block prints to reproduce, and that’s what you’ll find in these coloring books.  Admittedly, not all the images really make the greatest coloring pages - some have grey-tones, which aren’t so nice to color over, some have too much open space, or not enough interesting details.  Still, the pictures are fun to look at in any case, and you’ll find a nice variety of abstract designs, pretty scenes, and all sorts of images that are just plain weird.  So grab your colored pencils or fine-tip markers, print out a few of these historical pages, and go crazy!  It’ll be a good way to create a calm, colorful oasis in a busy, stressful season.
        The Dittrick Medical History Musem in Cleveland has provided this cool seventeenth century mechanical hand.  I wonder whether anyone was ever successfully fitted with one of these pre-steampunk cyborg attachments!  And I love that it's emerging from clouds like a divine apparition.  The whole coloring book is here.
        From Oxford’s Bodleian Library we get a wonderfully fancy initial, with monsters and flowers, two of my favorite things.  I think this one would work particularly well as a coloring page.  The whole coloring book is here.



        If you want something more modern, how about this great abstract design from the Smithsonian Libraries?  It doesn’t have as much detail, but it could be very bold, with lots of scope for experimenting with color choices.  The whole coloring book is here.
        The New York Public Library gives us this image of an astrolabe, which could make for a particularly interesting coloring page because in the original the lines aren’t intended to outline shapes or build up an image, yet they divide the space into lots of interesting areas with lots of possibilities.  What would it look like with the emphasis on shapes instead of lines?  The whole coloring book is here.
        And one more bonus coloring book for you, from the University of Minnesota.  It features a few nice mythical creatures, available here.


[Pictures: Mechanical Hand, wood block print from The Works of that famous chirurgion Ambrose Parey, translated out of Latine and compared with the French, 1634;
Initial S, wood block print from Lucain, Suetone, et Salluste, 1490;
Largo, woodcut by Oswald Herzog from Plastik: Sinfonie des Lebens, 1921;
Astrolabium Physicum, engraving by Martin Waldseemüller, 1517.] 

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