From 1st-5th February 2016, guardians of rare and beautiful books on both sides of the Atlantic invited colourers and crayonists to colour some of the wonderful illustrations and decorations they care for. It’s rare (has it happened before?) for curators and librarians to encourage people to take their crayons to precious, unique pages. We’re more used to strict injunctions for ‘pencils only’ in the reading room, bag inspectors guarding against fountain pens and sharp objects and the dubious habit of handing with white gloves. Colour Our Collections steps away from such limiting, albeit necessary, constraints and actively encourages fulfillment of rainbow imaginings by applying crayons, brushes and pastels to historic pictures.
Over the course of the week, various institutions, including the Smithsonian in Washington, the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the National Library of Wales and the University of Minnesota, prepared PDFs of some of their most attractive holdings for keen colourists of any age to download and colour. Congratulations to those involved for finding a novel, and fun, way of opening up their collections and offering a wholly new – practical and personal – way of experiencing the joy that fine illustrations can bring. Colourists can then share their coloured works on social media using the hashtag #colorourcollections (or #colourourcollections).
Never one to be slow to get the crayons out, I choose three images from The Special Collections and Rare Books Department at the University of Missouri Libraries to colour during the week. And here are my coloured versions.
Aubrey Beardsley’s illustration of the Lady of the Lake appeared in a 1909 edition of Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur [Edinburgh: Printed by Turnbull & Spears, 1909]. The soldier image is from an engraving by William Cruikshank which appeared in William Hone’s The Political House that Jack Built [London: Printed by and for William Hone, 1820]. And the final one, below, is an image from The Poems & Sonnets of Henry Constable [[London): [Printed at the Ballantyne Press], .
Although ColourOurCollections week is over for this year, it’s not too late to have a go yourself. Many of the images and PDF colouring books produced for the week are still available for download. Have a look at some of these:
Colour Our Collections at
- Wangensteen Historical Library at the University of Minnesota
- National Library of Wales
- Smithsonian Libraries
- New York Public Libraries
- The Bodleian Library
- The Folger Library
- The Huntington Library