Le Blond's Blue Labels - Is it Color or Colour?
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One of Le Blonds Blue Labels from the back of a mount of 'Forget me Not', always refered to as 'Forget me Nots' in all the reference books and stating 'Printed in Oil COLORS by Le Blond & Co London
In an article in the July 2022 New Baxter Society newsletter ‘What is a Le Blond Baxter’, Roger Smith mentions that use of the American spelling of ‘Colors’ on one of Le Blond’s labels “probably demonstrates the importance of the US market to him (Le Blond) at that time”.
It is true that by the time these print were published, circa 1868, all of Le Blonds prints had the joint signature ‘Le Blond & Co London and LA Elliot Boston’, but perhaps we can’t assume the spelling of ‘color’ was because of his American market.
I looked into the use of the word ‘color’ some years ago after I purchased a Baxter print with a hand written title underneath ‘Copper your Honor’ rather than the expected Honour. If you google the use of these spellings there are hundreds of sites that talk of the modern use of the American versus English spelling of the likes of color / colour – Honor / Honour – Favor / Favour etc.
‘A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language’ was first published in America in 1806 and popularised American English with the spellings of such words based on how they sounded when it is spoken. It is said it was meant to simplify the language but I feel that there must have been an element of simply wanting to be different to English, being just forty years since the Declaration of Independence ended England’s control of the then Colony.
The first comprehensive Dictionary in the UK was published in 1755 by Samuel Johnson and was considered as the pre-eminent English dictionary until the publication of Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. Prior to that Dictionaries would have had only limited use as it is stated that in 1800 only 60% of men and 40% of women were literate. That rose to 97% for both sexes in the next 100 years, the rise being almost totally attributable to education. (https://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/page/free-article/the-british-and-reading-a-short-history/)
It is true that in Johnson’s work of all the mentions of ‘colour’ only one is spelt color in a quote from John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ which was published in 1667. Again there are many references to ‘honour’ but one spelt honor being a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VIII first published in 1623. So although we think of these ‘new’ spellings as being American English they are in fact to be found in many English works predating Johnson work, the word color in fact coming from Latin rather than American.
Both spellings appear to have still been in common use in the mid-19th century England. I have read that Charles Dickens favoured favor, "He had but one eye, and the popular prejudice runs in favor of two", being a quote from Nicholas Nickleby published in 1839. Use of what we would today call American English has in fact been used in England since the time the Pilgrim Fathers first landed on the shores of America. During the 19th century the use of both spellings would have been common place in England, even Dickens famous ‘Christmas Carol’ published in 1843 had at least three mentions of colour yet also mentions color, so even Dickens, or the compositor, couldn’t make their mind up.
So a lot of words just to say we shouldn’t assume that color, honor, favor etc are used to appease our American friends. Even Baxter can be mentioned in this story. His print of Jenny Lind was used on the music cover of ‘Jullien's Album for 1851" and ‘Deutsche Lieder Valse’. Courtney Lewis states that then, under the print are the words “printed in colour by George Baxter patentee”. On the two copies currently in my possession they both state “printed in COLOR…”