Defining the Rainbow

A Colorful Word Book from Rebecca Press

For years, I have collected names for the many different shades and hues of colors. Defining the Rainbow, a new publication from Rebecca Press offers a small sampling of some of my favorites. I have found great pleasure in looking up the unfamiliar names and learning some of the background. It is my hope that readers will discover the same enjoyment. Some more common names were left off the lists in favor of words that are less widely known. I chose some because they are fun to say; I selected others because of how they look when written.


This book is printed on handmade Hayle paper that I hoarded for about 30(!) years waiting for the right project. This was it. Leonard Seastone of Tideline Press printed the book on his VanderCook from polymer plates made by Boxcar Press.

For those who are more familiar with the near-immediate gratification of digital printing, let me just give a little bit of insight into the the letterpress printing for this book. Each side of the page is printed separately (in this case, with the sheets being hand-placed into the press), after the ink has been applied (manually) to the type or (in this case) polymer plates. For something printed in one color, this means each sheet of paper passes through the press twice (front and back and alignment is not automatic — it’s fiddly work). In between, the ink needs several hours to dry. If you want a second color (for example, in my “green” section, both black and green inks are used), then the sheet must go through the press again (if color on 2 sides, then that means twice). I remind you of the alignment challenge. If you remember how hard it was to reinsert a typewriter page when corrections were needed (well, if you’re pretty old or are freakishly fascinated by ancient tech), you’ll have an idea of what this means. Plus, if you are changing the color on the press then the press needs to be thoroughly washed down so that the new color is crisp and clean (in the case of a light color like yellow, this can require more than one washing). Of course, this is a book about color, so 6 of the sections have their own second color and must go  through the press 4 times (multiplied by the number of copies, of course). With the washing up and the aligning and the waiting for things to dry…

Whew. Ok. So the book is printed using a total of 7 colors. Limited to 81 copies, of which 76 (50 regular and 26 deluxe) are offered for sale.

Special Marbled and Paste Papers

I was fortunate to be able to work with two outstanding paper artists on this project. The techniques they use require skill, discipline, and artistry and every single sheet is made by hand (meaning every piece in every book is unique).

  • Madeleine Durham made the jewel-like paste papers for the covers of this book as well as  for portions of the deluxe boxes. None of my photos have been able to capture how beautiful and tactile her papers are, with their subtle veil of gold in addition to the main colors..
  • Jemma Lewis hand-marbled the wrap-around dividers for each section. She had to deal with numerous requirements: a scaled-down pattern and very specific color needs because the marbling needed to extend the idea of the many hues to be found in each color. Again, my photos don’t capture the subtleties and richness of her papers but they are gorgeous.


Rainbow Regular Edition

Defining the Rainbow miniature book, regular edition. Exposed spine, each section sewn with different color thread.

The regular copies are bound in what I term a semi-constructed binding. Each section is sewn by hand (yes, each with its own color thread), then glued. Boards are covered with the paste-paper. Titles will be written individually in gold calligraphy.

Defining the Rainbow Deluxe

Deluxe copies are bound by Wesley Carpenter at the Green Dragon Bindery, in full leather with paste-paper insets. (When I informed Wes that we’d be using white leather, a sigh of resignation accompanied his response: “Why does it always have to be white?”) The book is housed in a (white) leather and brocade case with rainbow paste-paper label that has a hand-calligraphed title in gold (by Janice Reyes of Handmade Letters). Partially exposed spine reveals the graduated rainbow colors of the signatures.

Availability and Pricing

Regular Edition: Copies of the regular edition are now available to order. If you are interested, please email me ( with “Rainbow Book” in the subject line. Price: $166. Plus $7.50 priority mail shipping. Payment via Pay Pal (I will invoice) or check.

Deluxe Edition: A few are ready for delivery now. Price: $875. Shipping additional: $20.

Read more about Rebecca Press and miniature books:


  1. Smaaz

    Congratulations on being recognized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art!


  2. Congratulations for being recognized and honored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art!


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