Literature relating specifically to flowers has its origins in classical and medieval herbals, which emphasized the botanical/medical aspects of flowering plants, while floriculture forms part of practical horticulture. Both types of flower book are generally characterized by their use of illustration for instruction and identification. One genre of flower book, the florilegium, consists almost entirely of illustrations, with little or no text. 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.
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. Special Collections has an extensive collection of these publications.
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.
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Newark, Delaware 19717-5267