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Color palettes for Herman Melville, E.L. James and other authors

August 24, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • A color palette from Pantone that Chronicle Books thinks is perfect for Herman Melville.
A color palette from Pantone that Chronicle Books thinks is perfect for… (Chronicle Books )

Chronicle Books has published several Pantone color books, including "35 Inspirational Color Palettes." Although the book hit shelves in May, HuffPo Books was recently inspired by it -- inspired to ask Chronicle to match some of its palettes with famous authors.

The result is 13 sets of four colors, each matched to a different writer.

The palette Snug Harbor, above, is paired with Herman Melville. Chronicle seems right on the money with the nautical colors -- Safe Harbor, Farmyard Red, Homeward Horizon and Friendly Seas -- but I'm not entirely sure that Melville would have found them to be a "calm comfort." Melville seems like a man who found little comfort, calm or otherwise.

In his own lifetime, Melville's writing career started high and then slid, forcing him into financial straits and a day job he hated. His onetime friend Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that Melville "no doubt has suffered from too constant literary occupation, pursued without much success, latterly; and his writings, for a long while past, have indicated a morbid state of mind." Only in the 20th century did Melville's "Moby-Dick" come to be seen as a classic of American literature -- that, perhaps, would have given the author comfort.

Other authors they've found palettes for are Marcel Proust, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway.

The Paris Review selects a few sets that it finds particularly well-matched, including Henry James with a set of rich greens and browns: the colors Antique Citron, Ancient Sun, Green Nymph and Old Chestnut. Chronicle calls the colors "New World-meets-Old-World" and writes, "the richness of old master paintings emanates from these deep, luxurious colors, which feels right for Henry James, who migrated from America to Europe and back again throughout his life."

Perhaps the best-matched set is not to a classic author, but rather to one who's only recently come on the scene. Chronicle assigned the Passionate Purples palette to E.L. James, the author of "50 Shades of Grey." You don't even have to see the colors to understand what a good set they are for the sexy bestseller: They're called Lilac Negligee, Ripened Plum, Nightbloom and Temptress.

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