A title from The Old School Press 

The Colours of Rome

Decorative painter John Sutcliffe on the pigments that give Rome its characteristic visual flavour 

go to our homepage  follow the story of the making of this book 


About the book

Out of print

John Sutcliffe knows about colour. A former regional curator at the National Trust and now active as a decorative painter, his expertise in the topic, in particular in an architectural setting, was extensively used by Farrow & Ball, a company that will surely be known to many, at the time when they were first building up their reputation for traditional paints and hand-produced wallpapers. For many years Johnís interest in colour has taken him to the Mediterranean, to Italy, and in particular to Rome. The buildings of Romeís centro storico carry on their walls many layers of coloured limewash and distemper, layers that have both accumulated and decayed over time, thereby capturing the changing fashions in colour.

Johnís vision for this book was a survey of the cityís colourscape, a palette of colours so different from that of, say, Venice, Tuscany, or Palermo, and a palette that is today in a period of great change. His new essay traces the history of that palette and the influences that have led it to its state today.

To illustrate the essay John made several trips to Rome, returning finally with twenty sheets of colours copied directly from the buildings themselves. His carefully chosen selection is designed to demonstrate the diversity of the palette and also to draw together two very different strands of tradition that have created the appearance of the streets of Rome today. Each of the twenty colours is illustrated with a large painted patch applied directly onto its own sheet of Magnani wove using water-based paints. These sheets are loose in a wallet within the cased sleeve that holds the book, thus making it possible for the reader to explore the colours in different combinations just as they appear in Rome. A swatch card of chips of the twenty colours is also included in the wallet.

The 'paint outs' for the twenty colours


About the edition

The text is printed in 14pt Dante on a large page of Magnani hand-made laid paper, with headings printed from wood-letter. The book is bound in full cloth and is protected by the sleeve inside which the wallet of paint patches is attached. In addition to the standard edition of ninety-nine copies there were twenty-five de luxe copies that take the form of a solander box containing, as well as the standard edition book, bottled samples of nine of the most important pigments, mostly earths, in powdered form.

The book is 323mm by 235mm (about 12.75 inches by 9.25 inches); the solander box is slightly larger and 92mm deep (3.75 inches)

The price was £185 for a standard copy and £350 for a de luxe copy.

If you know our books you will know we love colour, so this was a project that appealed from the outset. If Rome, architecture, and the way our cities change interest you, this book will appeal, and we hope that the production qualities will enhance your enjoyment. Uniquely, it is the only record of the most characteristic colours to be seen in Rome today, perhaps the only such survey of any city. The book received full-page reviews in the Times Literary Supplement (7 April 2014) and World of Interiors (May 2014).

WINNER of a Judges' Choice Award at the 2013 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair

Find out more about the book

View the book from different aspects:

read about 'The Daniel Press in Frome'

Read the story of its making:

read about 'The Daniel Press in Frome'

What others have said about the book

'A wonderful production.' 'Delightful - beautifully produced and very interesting and informative too.' 'Handsome and well done.' 'Splendid!'

You can find details of all our plans and books in print
via the homepage of our catalogue website
and you can buy online at our shop.


Copyright © Martyn Ould 2023