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Hagley Museum: Billmeyer/Nickerson Correspondence

This section contains correspondence between Dorothy Nickerson and Fred W. Billmeyer, Jr.. Nine total documents were scanned on October 9, 2014. Five are posted here as of August 1, 2016. The rest will be posted at a later date. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete collection of all of Dorothy’s correspondence. There are missing letters and sometimes things seem out of place. However, we are doing our best to present the membership with a glimpse of the most precious documents from Dorothy’s collection for your information and enjoyment.

  • This letter from Dorothy to Fred (6/5/72) talks about a Munsell color file that Bob Marcus picked up from her. The letter truly is a gem because it contains her hand-written notes referring to some Munsell samples as “tomato colors, soil colors, hay colors, cotton colors, milk and yolk colors, meat and fat colors”. There is even a reference to a “slanting hue series”.
  • This letter from Fred to Dorothy (9/27/82) refers to a letter that both of them received from A. Stenius regarding a “new Swedish Standard”, the Natural Colour System (NCS). It contains one page of data as an example. That data consist of CIE tristimulus values and chromaticity coordinates obtained from sample measurements followed by similar values for the closest possible obtainable real NCS sample. Stenius confidentially reveals that he was opposed to publication of such a table because of “careless procedures of measurement”.
  • This letter from Fred to Dorothy (12/14/79) poses the question “Is the Munsell System right-handed or left-handed?” Munsell, himself sketched the hue circle with hue numbers increasing and hues progressing from R to P in a clockwise direction when looking down on it from above (left-handed). Yet the Munsell Book of Color is right-handed when it is spread open. Fred asks Dorothy is there should be a convention. Unfortnately, we didn’t find Dorothy’s response to this letter yet.
  • This letter from Fred to Dorothy (4/5/77) describes the dire need for help to save the color science program in the Chemistry department at Rensselaer beyond 1984, the year for Billmeyer’s mandatory retirement. Billmeyer implored Dorothy to write to Rensselaer's Chemistry Department head, Prof. Kevin Potts, with her reasons why she thought the program should continue.
  • Dorothy didn’t waste any time writing her letter to Professor Potts (4/12/77). Her letter is also included in the file. This letter is beautifully written. It talks about the necessity for a program in color science to stay at Rensselaer to keep "developing leaders in colorimetry of the caliber of the late Deane B. Judd and R. S. Evans and of present leaders like W. D. Wright, E. I Stearns, Gunter Wyszecki, Henry Hemmendinger, and their very own Prof. Billmeyer."
  • This file, Munsell Preface was in Dorothy’s folder marked Billmeyer, yet it does not mention Billmeyer in any way. It is a preface to a 1904 series of lectures by Albert H. Munsell giving timely ideas about relationships among colors and how they might be ordered into some type of system.
  • This correspondence relates to the color ordering difference between the Munsell System and the Natural Color System(NCS). Dorothy wrote a memo to herself on May 4, 1982 for her Fred Billmeyer file. The memo is somewhat difficult to read, but with the help of Danny Rich, it has been clarified. The memo says to send Fred Billmeyer a” copy of 5/4/82 notes to Henry Hemmendinger including a copy of pp. 622/23 of the 1940 JOSA Newhall committee report” (Sidney M. Newhall*, Preliminary Report of the O.S.A. Subcommittee on the Spacing of the Munsell Colors, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Vol. 30, Issue 12, pp. 617-645, 1940.). Unfortunately, the 5/4/82 notes to Hemmendinger were not found on this visit to the Hagley. Finally the memo says to also send Billmeyer “a copy of the attached letter from Anders Hård’s (4/26/82) query”, which was found and is attached to this memo as page 2. The letter from Anders Hård reminds Dorothy that previously he sent her “CIE data for samples in the NCS atlas” along with their calculated NCS notations based on the production color control limits. Interestingly enough, he also provided data for samples that could not be produced given the technology available in 1982. The tables he sent Dorothy were from his own manuscript, which was used to compose the NCS standard. Finally, he sent Dorothy a NCS color index. Anders sent these to Dorothy as a gift “from one friend in color to another”. Please read the letter from our website. It is very touching!
  • This manuscript was written by Gunnar Tonnquist entitled “Philosophy and Applications of Color Order Systems”. He presented it at the Frontiers in Color Science Symposium held at the inauguration of the Munsell Color Science Laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on February 16-17, 1984. This manuscript was heavily annotated by Fred and Dorothy. It is obvious that a very controversial color topic of the time was the NCS vs. the Munsell Color Order System and Fred, Dorothy, and Gunnar were in the middle of it. Fred asked Dorothy to comment on pages 9-11 and 16, but you will note that Dorothy’s handwriting shows up in many places elsewhere. On the page numbered 22, Gunnar ends with this quote, “Both Munsell and NCS are surely capable of further developments, where both may profit from each other. Are those developments going to be just another struggle between two systems, or a common search for new knowledge in color science?” Dorothy’s annotation of this paragraph says that she and Deane B. Judd agreed with the words in this last paragraph. However, the NCS system was published without any coordination with those working on the Munsell System like Dorothy and Judd. It was Dorothy’s belief that if NCS had adjusted a few points within their system (i.e. the white point, the black point and a few points on the inside on the space) both Munsell and NCS could be “simply-interrelated” because they each represent different methods “of mapping the same uniform color space”.
  • This letter from Dorothy to Fred (5/16/84) is a reply to a request Fred made of Dorothy regarding Gunnar Tonnquist’s manuscript, “Philosophy and Applications of Color Order Systems”. Fred wanted to see Dorothy’s annotations that she made after his. So Dorothy enclosed them with this letter. This is a very heart-felt letter, where Dorothy expresses her frustration and concern over the fact that after many years of research studying the NCS and Munsell Systems with Judd and others and discussion with those responsible for finalizing the NCS System, like Gunnar, NCS published their system ignoring important issues that she and others raised so that both systems could work in concert with each other. There was a fundamental difference between both groups. The Swedish color experts working on NCS did not believe “the fact that there are different and equally valid ways of mapping perceptual color space”. Dorothy and Deane Judd” felt confirmed in their view that each method presented but a different set of scales for mapping what eventually will be found to be the same uniform color space”. This letter also refers to the Munsell Preface from Munsell’s 1904 lecture series that was enclosed for Billmeyer, but found separate from this letter at the Hagley.
  • This letter from Fred to Dorothy (7/2/84) discusses the work of Fred’s graduate student, Anna Bencuya, on the relationship between the NCS and Munsell Systems. Anna’s work found equations to convert Munsell Value into NCS blackness and Munsell Chroma into NCS chromaticness. Fred pointed out that Anna’s equations were a bit more complex than the ones that Dorothy and Deane Judd reported in their 1975 paper. Anna’s work did not produce equations to relate Munsell Hue and NCS hue because of the scatter in NCS hue. Billmeyer assured Dorothy by saying, “Nevertheless we agree completely with your conclusions with Dr. Judd that the two systems clearly sample the same underlying space.” He also assures Dorothy that he will send her Joann Taylor’s thesis on the multidimensional scaling of the OSA-UCS system Finally, Fred discusses cleaning out 20 years of work from his lab at RPI, as he gets ready to retire and encourages Dorothy to correspond with him at his home address.