Flowers and Floriculture
A few early publishers, such as Christopher Plantin at Antwerp, attempted to reduce the cost of illustration by amassing a stock of flower woodcuts to be used in several publications. Examples of this method are found in Plantin's publication of Rembert Dodoens's Florum, et Coronariarum Odoratarumque Nonnullarum Herbarum Historia (1569), one of the earliest works to make a distinction between ornamental and medicinal plants. Illustrations for these early works were designed to be hand colored. Crispijn van de Passe's Hortus Floridus (1614), includes detailed descriptions for the coloring of each plate.
Special Collections holds over 200 titles relating specifically to flowers and floriculture, printed between the late sixteenth and the late nineteenth centuries. Over half of this collection consists of American works published between 1830 and 1900. The remainder is European, with British and French works predominant. Although flowers were cultivated in America from the earliest colonial times, flower gardening did not become widespread in this country until late in the nineteenth century. Prior to this period, the cultivation of food plants dominated American gardening and horticultural literature, and only with the growing prosperity of the nation after 1870 did Americans take to raising flowers as a standard part of their gardening activities. Nevertheless, growing flowering plants in early nineteenth-century America had a small, but active following. The idea that tending a flower garden was a frivolous endeavor compared to raising fruits and vegetables, or at best valuable for instruction in social and moral values, is reflected in A Treatise on the Cultivation of Ornamental Flowers (1828) by Roland Green, the earliest American book on floriculture. The work states that the cultivation of flowers is most suitable for the health and exercise of the retired; the teaching of neatness, order, and the value of labor to the young; and the cultivation of neatness, mildness, virtuousness, and correct taste in young ladies. Most flowering plants during this period were grown in pots and tubs rather than in open gardens, fostering a preference for small, short-stemmed flowers, such as camellia, bouvardia, and heliotrope. The colored frontispiece for The American Flower Garden Directory, mentioned above, is of Camellia japonica fimbriata, one of the most popular flowers of the time. Long-stemmed flowers, such as the rose, one of the oldest and most commonly grown ornamental plants in this country, did not achieve a popular vogue until after 1870. Nevertheless, a few works on rose culture appeared in print before 1860, beginning with The Rose Manual (1844), by Robert Buist. Perhaps the work that best represents the broadening interest in flower cultivation in late nineteenth-century America is Practical Floriculture, A Guide to Successful Cultivation of Florist's Plants, for the Amateur and Professional Florist, by Peter Henderson. This guide first appeared in 1869, and was revised and enlarged through numerous editions for several decades.
Besides monographs on flower gardening, floriculture in nineteenth-century America may be studied through the catalogs of seed and nursery establishments, particularly those well known for flower seeds, such as Joseph Breck & Sons, Briggs Brothers Company, John Lewis Childs, Dingee and Conrad Company, and James Vick. Although no American magazines on floriculture existed prior to 1870, all horticultural periodicals devoted some space to the subject, notably The Horticulturalist and Vick's Illustrated Monthly. Toward the close of the century a few magazines appeared, such as The Mayflower, devoted wholly to floriculture.
A sub-genre of the flower book is the literary or moral tract on the language of flowers. Although consisting almost entirely of sentimental poetry and essays on the moral and religious significance of flowers, these popular works often included illustrations of flowers, a few rather elaborate, and had some influence in popularizing the cultivation of flowering plants. Special Collections holds over 100 titles relating to flower language and flowers in literature, principally published between the decades of 1830 and 1880. These illustrate the tastes and preferences in the flowers grown during this period.
Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585).
Crispijn van de Passe (1593-1667).
Consists of twenty-six elegies on flowers, illustrated with fifty-four engravings by Antoine Serrurier.
A florilegium of "The Garden of the Most Christian King Louis XIII." It includes detailed instructions for coloring the plates.
First published in 1665.
This anonymous work consists entirely of 100 hand-colored etchings of
flowers with brief descriptions of their culture and month of flowering.
Etienne Pierre Ventenat (1757-1808).
Illustrated with engravings of flowering plants by the Belgian-French botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840).
This book was for many years the standard work on flowers for the American florist and gardener.
The first book by an American author on a specific flower. Sayers was also author of The American Flower Garden Companion, published in 1838, and two other books relating to fruit and grape culture.
The first American book on rose culture.
Charles van Ravenswaay Collection
Peter Henderson (1822-1890).
Rochester seedsman James Vick (1818-1882) expanded his quarterly seed catalog, the Floral Guide, into this monthly magazine. Each issue began with a chromolithographic frontispiece that was nearly always of a flower.
Charles van Ravenswaay Collection
The Mayflower. Floral Park, N. Y.: The Mayflower Publishing Co., 1885-1906.
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Last modified: 12/21/10