Munsell’s Colour System


Our latest display of items from the Library’s Special Collections focuses on colour theory, and features a number of 19th and 20th century texts on the science and use of colour.
One of the books on display is an instructional manual on the Munsell Color System. Munsell’s system (revolutionary in approach when first published and still in use in many spheres today) provides specifications of colours based on three properties, or ‘dimensions’: namely hue, value, and chroma. ‘Value’ roughly equates to lightness, and ‘chroma to purity’. The system was created by Professor Albert H. Munsell in the first decade of the 20th century, and Munsell was the first colour scientist to separate hue, value, and chroma into perceptually uniform and independent dimensions, based on rigorous measurements of human subjects’ visual responses to colour. On the Munsell scale, each colour is assigned three numbers that then become its unique specification: these numbers correspond to its position on the hue, value, and chroma axes. The Library’s example of this text includes a blank Munsell grid with its 3 axes, and coloured chits for the student to place onto the grid as part of their learning.
The colour science display can be viewed on the ground floor of the Main Library during our normal opening hours.

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