If you love color (and, we definitely do), you’ve got to love Pantone. Seriously, their color guides are swatch royalty. But this ancient Dutch book of colors has us rethinking color history. 271 years ago, a guy known only as “A. Boogert” started a watercolor experiment that would grow to be over 800 pages of — okay we’ll say it — early Pantone porn.

Book historian Erikk Wakkel recently uncovered this treasure in a French database. Apparently there’s only one copy in existence. That’s because Boogert hand wrote every lovin’ page and never hooked up with Johannes Gutenberg to make like a million copies of the thing. But he probably should have. The color guide was meant to be a teaching tool, but few people got to see it… until now. Yay, Internet!

This massive hand-written journal of color exploration goes into extreme detail examining even the slightest changes in each hue. Kwakkel has translated part of the introduction and found that the differences in tone are so slight, so meticulous that Boogert made changes with only “one, two or three portions of water.” It takes patience to be a color master.

There are no studies on the book yet, but it’s being examined right now as part of a Dutch scholar’s PhD study. From details listed on the book, there’s an indication that it could be tied to Indian textile export and the Dutch East India Company. Where are you when we need you, Sherlock?

This ancient discovery has us wondering if maybe we need to up our color game. And maybe our handwriting too. Did you check out that calligraphy?

This encyclopedia of color is called Klaer lightende Spiegel der Verfkonst. The next time you’re in Aix-en-Provence, France you can check out the book in person at the Bibliothèque Méjanes. But until then, you can see every single page of the book in all of its high-res glory here.

Where do you find color inspiration? Let us know in the comments!