The Blue Hour: A Stunning Illustrated Celebration of Nature’s Rarest Color

The book opens with a palette of blues strewn across the endpapers– from the delicate “porcelain blue” to the boldly iconic “Klein blue” to the brooding “midnight blue”– hues that come alive in Simlers vibrant, consummately cross-hatched illustrations of animals and landscapes, called in extra, lyrical words. What emerges is part minimalist encyclopedia, part cinematic lullaby.

The day ends.The night falls.And in between … there is the blue hour.

Blue, Rebecca Solnit wrote in among humankinds most lovely reflections on our planets primary hue, is “the color of privacy and of desire, the color of there seen from here … the color of longing for the ranges you never arrive in, for the blue world,” a world of numerous blues– a pioneering 19th-century nomenclature of colors listed eleven kinds of blue, in shades as varied as the color of the flax-flower and the throat of the blue titmouse and the endurance of a specific species of polyp. Darwin took this guide with him on The Beagle in order to better describe what he saw. We name in order to see much better and collar just what we know how to name, how to consider.

We meet the famed blue morpho butterfly spreading its wings versus the blue early morning magnificence, the Arctic fox passing through the icy area in its blue-tinted coat, the blue poison dart frogs croaking at each other throughout the South American forest, the silvery-blue sardines glimmering underneath the surface of the blue ocean, the blue racer snake coiled around a branch, the numerous blue birds quiet or singing in the gloaming hour.

Given my unusual love of snails, I was specifically happy to find the glass snail beautifying this menagerie of blue-tinted living marvels.

In the last pages, as the black of night drains pipes the blue hour from the day, all the creatures grow still and quiet, the hint of their presence consecrating the apparition of this blue world.

In The Blue Hour (town library), French illustrator and author Isabelle Simler provides a stunning joint event of these uncommon blue animals and the typical blue world they populate, the Pale Blue Dot we share.

In the living world underneath our red-ravenous atmosphere, blue is the rarest color: There is no naturally occurring true blue pigment in nature. In repercussion, only a slender portion of plants bloom in blue and a much more negligible number of animals are adorned with it, all needing to carry out different tricks with chemistry and the physics of light, some having developed impressive triumphs of structural geometry to render themselves blue: Each plume of the bluejay is tessellated with small light-reflecting beads set up to counteract every wavelength of light except heaven; the wings of the blue morpho butterflies– which Nabokov, in his spree of making major contributions to lepidoptery while changing literature, appropriately referred to as “glittering light-blue mirrors”– are covered with mini scales ridged at the accurate angle to flex light in such a method that only the blue part of the spectrum is shown to the eye of the beholder. Only a handful of known animals, all species of butterfly, produce pigments as close to blue as nature can get– green-tinted aquamarines the color of Uranus.

However regardless of Earths difference as the Solar Systems “Pale Blue Dot,”, this planetary blueness is just an affective phenomenon emerging from how our specific atmosphere, with its specific chemistry, soaks up and reflects light. Whatever we behold– a ball, a bird, a world– is the color we view it to be because of its insentient stubbornness toward the spectrum, due to the fact that these are the wavelengths of light it refuses to absorb and instead shows back.

Couple The Blue Hour– a large-scale splendor of paper and ink untranslatable to this little blue-reflecting screen– with Maggie Nelsons love letter to blue, then discover a kindred painted celebration of the natural world in The Lost Spells.

Illustrations by Isabelle Simler; pictures by Maria Popova

Blue, Rebecca Solnit wrote in one of mankinds most stunning reflections on our worlds main hue, is “the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here … the color of yearning for the distances you never ever show up in, for the blue world,” a world of lots of blues– a pioneering 19th-century classification of colors noted eleven kinds of blue, in colors as differed as the color of the flax-flower and the throat of the blue titmouse and the endurance of a certain types of anemone. In the living world beneath our red-ravenous environment, blue is the rarest color: There is no naturally happening true blue pigment in nature. In consequence, just a slender part of plants bloom in blue and an even more negligible number of animals are bedecked with it, all having to perform numerous tricks with chemistry and the physics of light, some having progressed amazing victories of structural geometry to render themselves blue: Each feather of the bluejay is tessellated with tiny light-reflecting beads set up to cancel out every wavelength of light except the blue; the wings of the blue morpho butterflies– which Nabokov, in his spree of making major contributions to lepidoptery while changing literature, appropriately explained as “sparkling light-blue mirrors”– are covered with mini scales ridged at the accurate angle to bend light in such a way that only the blue portion of the spectrum is reflected to the eye of the beholder.