Title: c1880 Flora Symbolica or the Language and Sentiment of Flowers Book by John Ingram 14 Color Plates Fine Binding Gift Item


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Language and Poetry of Flowers History Illustrated Fancy Cover

This exceptional book is entitled Flora Symbolica or the Language and Sentiment of Flowers. It is a large volume and is illustrated. The author is John Ingram, and it is undated (as most Frederick Warne volumes are) and dates to the 1880’s period. This fancy cover hardbound book has green cloth-covered boards, with ornate plating in gilt and black. The spine is also highly decorated. It is in VG condition with light foxing on the first few and last pages, with occasional foxing on the inside pages. The inside wear is also minimal. The 368 pages are brightly gilt tipped, and there are 14 full color illustrations. The text block is tight and the flyleaf papers uncracked. The cover boards are beveled and the corners and spine have minimal shelf wear. Size is 5.5 x 7.75 inches. At the front flyleaf if a previous owner’s very small name label. This book is highly sought after, and almost never found in this wonderful condition.

In Victorian times, a lady or gentleman would signal their intentions silently by giving flowers to their beloved, and each flower symbolized a virtue. For instance, the red rose meant True Love, pansies meant someone was Thinking of You, hydrangeas signaled Boastiness, and the little violet portrayed humble Faithfulness or Modesty. A bride’s bouquet might contain white roses, which stood for Innocent Love. Indeed, each flower had its own sweet sentiment.

The book starts out explaining some history about flowers, and some excerpts as follows:

Shakespeare tells us that “fairies use flowers for their character”, and so, he might have added, do mortals, for the language of flowers is almost as ancient and universal a one as that of speech…the love of flowers is felt and acknowledged by everybody, and in every land; it is a theme for every one, a feeling in which all can coincide…

“That flowers do serve to speak thoughts that lie too deep for tears cannot be doubted; for not only have poets made use of them to portray their intense passions, but even the untutored savage wooed his heart’s chosen treasure with floral symbols, or defies his antagonist with emblematic blooms…flowers do speak a language, clear and intelligible…do not flowers, lovely flowers, respond to the questionings of our hearts in a language more powerful, and far more expressive, than that of the tongue?”

The color illustration pages are magnificent, with each flower having a gold scrollwork rectangular cartouche that surrounds the floral image.

Each flower is intimately detailed, such is the section on the Lilac: (Love’s First Emotions). This attractive and yet unobtrusive flower is well worthy of being selected to emblemize love’s first emotions. Bursting into a profusion of fragrant bouquet-shaped blossoms just at that delightful season of the year when all nature, aroused from its long wintry slumber, decks itself with smiles and blushes, the Lilac could scarcely escape being chose by the observant eyes of poet and lover as a symbol of those indescribable feelings of joy which bloom into being when Love’s young dream first bashfully manifests itself…

On the Violet: (Modesty)…the rank which this timid little blossom holds in floral calligraphy is a very exalted one; indeed, the rose excepted, there is not a flower that tolls its perfume on the passing air which is so generally admired and belauded.

At the back is The Vocabulary, a quick alphabetical index for each flower and its assigned virtue.

The second part of The Vocabulary details the reverse; that is, a virtue, and what flower would be assigned it. In this manner, one could pick an emotion and award the appropriate flower. Or, taken further, one could compose a bouquet of flowers to convey many secret messages. For instance, Danger would be assigned the Rhododendron, Early Attachment would be a Thornless Rose, Depart would be Dandelion seeds in the Ball, a Belle the Orchis, Beware a sprig of Oleander, Indifference the Mustard Seed, Justice the Rudebekia, Freshness taking the form of the Damask Rose, Fickleness was assigned to Parsley, and so on. Many Victorian picnic games centered around flowers gathered and the guests trying to assess and guess their symbolism.

Indeed, a fine coffee table presentation book, and absolutely a wonderful gift for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays, or holidays.

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