Colour Ranges

Nov 3rd, 2011 | | Colour Ranges | Colour Services | 7 Comments

Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration

BCC Cover

The British Colour Council
When the British Colour Council came into being in 1930, the declared aims and objects included the placing of colour determination for the British Empire in British hands and the provision of standard names for colours for the sake of clarity. In 1934 the Council published a Dictionary of Colour Standards in two volumes, one showing 220 colours presented on pure silk ribbon, named, numbered, and coded, and the other giving the history of each colour, the various names by which each had previously been known and the authority for standardisation.

As the British Colour Council developed its services to industry it became apparent that the bias in the dictionary towards colours for textiles made it less relevant as a standard reference work for Interior Decoration. Some colours which were suitable for clothes were insufficiently permanent for application to carpets, curtains and upholstery fabric, while others were technically impracticable for use in the pottery and glass industries, in porcelain and vitreous enamel or in the making of paint or other materials used in decorating.

In 1949 the Council published the Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration, which is discussed in this post.

The rest of this essay has been removed after six years. You can now read more about this in The Anatomy of Colour, published by Thames & Hudson and available from John Sandoe (Books).

Papers and Paints can be found here:

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Comments (7)

Cecilie GearyNo Gravatar » 21. Dec, 2013

I am a fashion writer living in New Zealand and have just been given The British Colour Council Silk Card Spring and Summer 1937. The booklet contains 40 silk samples which I assume, at that time, would have been intended for use in the textile dye industry. Can you enlighten me? The gentleman who gave me the book worked in the fabric department of a large NZ department store in the 1940s just after the war. I was very excited to receive such an historical item as I imagine it is quite rare, particularly in this part of the world.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 21. Dec, 2013

Thanks Cecilie. What a wonderful thing to have. I don’t know it, but am aware of a number of booklets produced for the textile industry by the BCC. You might try contacting the Colour Reference Library at the Royal College of Art. I was there a couple of days ago looking at other BCC colour cards and they might know more.

Silas Clifford-SmithNo Gravatar » 23. May, 2015

Dear Patrick

Regarding the Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration could you tell me if it includes a foreword written by John Pomeroy Glass. I ask this because J P Glass is my grandfather and I am keen to read what he says in his Foreword.

Best wishes


David Seeley=JonesNo Gravatar » 03. Nov, 2015

I have just retired as a Teacher in Decorating and Interior Design. I am downsizing have quite a few vintage books on the subject including a full set of Dictionary of Colours for Interior Decoration in original box (ex Libris) These are for sale if anyone is interested? cover edges a bit tatty but the books are perfect inside. (UK)

PatrickNo Gravatar » 03. Nov, 2015

Wonderful. Perhaps someone reading this might be interested.

Dan MorrisNo Gravatar » 09. Aug, 2018

I am trying to get a copy of the bcc dictionary for interior design, and some said a copy was available (David Seeley?). Any chance I could have help getting a copy? Thank you!

Dan Morris

PatrickNo Gravatar » 10. Aug, 2018

I’m afraid that I have no idea. They are very rare. Mine is an ex-library copy.