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Abstract

Previous research, published and unpublished, has shown that early references to color-circle diagrams go back at least to 1611. Scientific records before that date trace four aspects of this history: circles based on seven colors, circles based on four colors, circles organized for a red-yellow-blue mixing system, and historical relationships between pigment primaries and spectral primaries. We conclude that color organization diagrams are at least as old as the 13th century, with the seven-color circle possibly the oldest found, the four-color next (14th-15th centuries), and the red-yellow-blue circle the most recent (18th century). Each evidently rests on antecedent color theories. Although no graphic records of circular systems earlier than 1611 have yet been identified, some may be inferred from extant scientific texts and reconstructed.