The Chemistry of Paints and Painting is a free textbook on chemical aspects of painting. See the editorial for more information....


This handbook first appeared in the spring of 1890; two years afterwards a second and revised edition was published. In 1901, when the work had been for some time out of print, a thorough revision of its contents was carried out, a good deal of new matter being introduced, while a few pages, which had been occupied by a digest of an important newspaper discussion on the effect of light upon water-colour drawings, were not reprinted. This account was omitted because it could no longer be contended that many English water-colour drawings, exposed to strong light for a considerable length of time, had suffered no change in hue and depth.

Various additions and corrections have been made in this, the fourth edition. A few of the paragraphs relating to rather recondite subjects have been abridged or even omitted. Indeed, an attempt has been made, in carrying out the present revision, to simplify, so far as possible, the way in which the results, obtained by chemists in the study of painters' materials, are presented to the artist and the student of art.

In the year 1908 a German translation of the third edition of this book was published in Munich. It was prepared and edited by the distinguished scientist Dr. Wilhelm Ostwald. I have incorporated with the present issue the substance of the paragraphs which he introduced into my original text.

In preparing the following pages for the press, I have to acknowledge, as on previous occasions, the help of several friends and correspondents. Amongst these I specially name Mr. J. Scott Taylor, many of whose suggestions have been incorporated in the text, and also Dr. A. P. Laurie, my successor in the chair of Chemistry in the Royal Academy of Arts.

Of recent years the literature dealing with the subjects to which the present handbook is devoted has greatly increased. Several of the volumes named in my 'Bibliographical Notes' are of sterling merit and contain original material of no little importance. But I am bound to confess that I have met with several disappointments when searching for records of new facts in recent dictionary articles, reports of lectures, and treatises. On perusal a familiar note seemed sometimes to be struck; and I ultimately identified not a little of the material as my own. I will not dwell on this matter; it is indeed some consolation to feel that such transferences from my pages would not have taken place had not the paragraphs and tables and comments been deemed of some value. But I trust that I myself shall not be thought guilty of plagiarism because in 1914 I reprint something, say a table or a classification, which I published in 1890, but which appeared ten years or more later as having been devised by another chemist.

Another reason for limiting the number of books included in my list of titles is to be found in the extensive Bibliography appended to Professor Laurie's 'The Materials of the Painter's Craft.'

No very great differences will be found between the present and the preceding edition, but I have endeavoured, not only to introduce new matter which I think of importance, but to simplify and make more exact the treatment of the various subjects discussed; and, in fine, to carry out more fully the plan set forth in the Preface (here reprinted) to the First Edition.

Arthur H. Church.
Kew Gardens,
June 2, 1914.

Last Update: 2011-01-24