History of "Color Dictionaries"

In 1831, Charles Darwin carried a book called the Nomenclature of Colours aboard the HMS Beagle. Scientists used this book and other "color dictionaries," predecessors to today's Pantone swatch books, as a common reference when describing the appearance of whatever they were studying. From Smithsonian:
WernergreensColor dictionaries were designed to give people around the world a common vocabulary to describe the colors of everything from rocks and flowers to stars, birds, and postage stamps. They afforded scientists and naturalists a means of descriptive biological precision that could be easily shared—so naturalists in Kalamazoo and Germany could communicate effectively about a family of birds found in both places in related (but different) forms. They typically consisted of a set of color swatches, each assigned a name (usually rendered in several languages, to facilitate international use), an identifying number, and an often-lyrical description of the color (“the color of the blood of a freshly killed rabbit,” or “mummy brown.”)

...The French Society of Chrysanthemists, for instance, created a two-volume set of swatches and names in 1905 for their own botanical uses. Holly Green was described as “the ordinary color of the foliage of the common holly, viewed from 1 to 2 meters away, and without considering reflections.” And despite the fact that the work was meant for international consumption, its soul remained French. “Sky Blue,” for example, was described as “The color reminiscent of pure sky, in summer (in the climate of Paris).”

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