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and there seems no reason why a visual capacity might not have been developed as perfect as our own, or even more so in respect of light and shade, but entirely insensible to differences of colour except in so far as these implied a difference in the quantity of light. The world would in that case appear somewhat as we see it in good stereoscopic photographs; and we all know how exquisitely beautiful such pictures are, and how completely they give us all requisite information as to form, surface-texture, solidity, and distance, and even to some extent as to colour; for almost all colours are distinguishable in a photograph by some differences of tint, and it is quite conceivable that visual organs might exist which would differentiate what we term colour by delicate gradations of some one characteristic neutral tint. Now such a capacity of vision would be simple as compared with that which we actually possess ; which, besides distinguishing infinite gradations of the quantity of light, distinguishes also, by a totally distinct set of sensations, gradations of quality, as determined by differences of wave-lengths or rate of vibration. At what grade in animal development this new and more complex sense first began to appear we have no means of determining. The fact that the higher vertebrates, and even some insects, distinguish what are to us diversities of colour, by no means proves that their sensations of colour bear any resemblance whatever to
An insect's capacity to distinguish red from blue or yellow may be (and probably is) due to perceptions of a totally distinct nature, and quite unaccompanied by any of that sense of enjoyment or even of radical distinctness which pure colours excite in us. Mammalia
and birds, whose structure and emotions are so similar to our own, do probably receive somewhat similar impressions of colour ; but we have no evidence to show that they experience pleasurable emotions from colour itself, when not associated with the satisfaction of their wants or the gratification of their passions.
The primary necessity which led to the development of the sense of colour, was probably the need of distinguishing objects much alike in form and size, but differing in important properties ;—such as ripe and unripe, or eatable and poisonous fruits ; flowers with honey or without; the sexes of the same or of closely allied species. In most cases the strongest contrast would be the most useful, especially as the colours of the objects to be distinguished would form but minute spots or points when compared with the broad masses of tint of sky, earth, or foliage against which they would be set.
Throughout the long epochs in which the sense of sight was being gradually developed in the higher animals, their visual organs would be mainly subjected to two groups of rays-the green from vegetation, and the blue from the sky. The immense preponderance of these over all other groups of rays would naturally lead the eye to become specially adapted for their perception ; and it is quite possible that at first these were the only kinds of light-vibrations which could be perceived at all. When the need for differentiation of colour arose, rays of greater and of smaller wave-lengths would necessarily be made use of to excite the new sensations required ; and we can thus understand why green and blue form the central portion of the visible spectrum, and are the colours which are most agreeable to us in large surfaces ;
while at its two extremities we find yellow, red, and violet-colours which we best appreciate in smaller masses, and when contrasted with the other two, or with light neutral tints. We have here probably the foundations of a natural theory of harmonious colouring, derived from the order in which our colour-sensations have arisen and the nature of the emotions with which the several tints have been always associated. The agreeable and soothing influence of green light may be in part due to the green rays having little heating power; but this can hardly be the chief cause, for the blue and violet, though they contain less heat, are not generally felt to be so cool and sedative. But when we consider how dependent are all the higher animals on vegetation, and that man himself has been developed in the closest relation to it, we shall find, probably, a sufficient explanation. The green mantle with which the earth is overspread caused this one colour to predominate over all others that meet our sight, and to be almost always associated with the satisfaction of human wants. Where the is greenest, and vegetation most abundant and varied, there has man always found his most suitable dwelling-place. In such spots hunger and thirst are unknown, and the choicest productions of nature gratify the appetite and please the eye. In the greatest heats of summer, coolness, shade, and moisture are found in the green forest glades ; and we can thus understand how our visual apparatus has become especially adapted to receive pleasurable and soothing sensations from this
class of rays.
Supposed increase of Colour-perception within the Historical Period.--Some writers believe that our
power of distinguishing colours has increased even in historical times. The subject has attracted the attention of German philologists, and I have been furnished by a friend with some notes from a work of the late Lazarus Geiger, entitled, Zur Entwickelungsgeschichte der Menschheit (Stuttgart, 1871). According to this writer it appears that the colour of grass and foliage is never alluded to as a beauty in the Vedas or the Zendavesta, though these productions are continually extolled for other properties. Blue is described by terms denoting sometimes green, sometimes black, showing that it was hardly recognised as a distinct colour. The colour of the sky is never mentioned in the Bible, the Vedas, the Homeric poems, or even in the Koran. The first distinct allusion to it known to Geiger is in an Arabic work of the ninth century. “Hyacinthine locks” are black locks, and Homer calls iron
violet-coloured.” Yellow was often confounded with green ; but, along with red, it was one of the earliest colours to receive a distinct name. Aristotle names three colours in the rainbow-red, yellow, and green. Two centuries earlier Xenophanes had described the rainbow as purple, reddish, and yellow. The Pythagoreans admitted four primary colours--white, black, red, and yellow ; the Chinese the same, with the addi
tion of green.
Simultaneously with the first publication of this essay in Macmillan's Magazine, there appeared in the Nineteenth Century an article by Mr. Gladstone on the Colour-sense, chiefly as exhibited in the poems of Homer. He shows that the few colour-terms used by Homer are applied to such different objects that they
cannot denote colours only, as we perceive and differentiate them ; but seem more applicable to different intensities of light and shade. Thus, to give one example, the word porphureos is applied to clothing, to the rainbow, to blood, to a cloud, to the sea, and to death ; and no one meaning will suit all these applications except comparative darkness. In other cases the same thing has many different epithets applied to it according to its different aspects or conditions ; and as the colours of objects are generally indicated in ancient writings by comparative rather than by abstract terms, -as winecolour, fire-colour, bronze-colour, &c.—it becomes still more difficult to determine in any particular case what colour was really meant. Mr. Gladstone's general conclusion is, that the archaic man had a positive perception only of degrees of light and darkness, and that in Homer's time he had advanced to the imperfect discrimination of red and yellow, but no further; the green
of grass and foliage or the blue of the sky being never once referred to.
These curious facts cannot, however, be held to prove so recent an origin for colour-sensations as they would at first sight appear to do, because we have seen that both flowers and fruits have become diversely coloured in adaptation to the visual
of insects, birds, and mammals. Red, being a very common colour of ripe fruits which attract birds to devour them and thus distribute their seeds, we may be sure that the contrast of red and green is to them very well marked. It is indeed just possible that birds may have a more advanced development of the colour-sense than mammals, because the teeth of the latter commonly grind up and