"The law of proportion according to which the several colours are formed,
even if a man knew he would be foolish in telling, for he could not give any
necessary reason, nor indeed any tolerable or probable explanation of them."
When doing a physics course once, we were allowed to basically dismiss one of the subject components in relation to assessment. Reading around about colour systems reaffirms my original belief that optical physics is not really my strong suit. So on this occasion I think I'll refrain from crafting any sort of summary - it's very interesting stuff for sure but, well...I'm not so sure I've comprehended it all well.
The above illustrations come from The Colour Museum (in english, french and german) which gives a reasonably detailed overview of the history of the human conceptualization of colour. Many of their images are originals but it's a little hard to be sure at times. I suspect the contents of the site doesn't rise to the level of 'scholarship' but it is actually pretty fascinating nonetheless.
The University of Mannheim have a modest selection of original book illustrations on this subject.
Wikipedia on color.
Addit: more from the (excellent) Blanketfort.