The Language of Flowers - Livres du Mois
In February's Livres du Mois we look at the language of flowers. This month has been filled with Pre-Raphaelites, where we have explored the ancient mythology that inspired them and how those stories were told with flowers. It seemed only right that after talking about the language of flowers in almost every article that I should share some wonderful books on the topic. I love that flowers can have meaning and that a story of conflicting choices can be told through a handful of violets.
So I have selected books that not only talk about the language of flowers but the poetry that can be created with them and even flower lore throughout history. It seems to be wise to start with flower lore, as the meaning of flowers was passed on by word of mouth long before it was written down.
Flowers and Flower Lore
Rev. Hilderic Friend
Written in 1886, Flowers and Flower Lore explores a wide and peculiar range of topics including fairy garlands, superstitions about flowers, curious beliefs of herbalists, sprigs and sprays in heraldry, witches and their flower-lore and the cheery topic of flowers and the dead.
The book tells of flower lore around Great Britain, the stories passed down from generation to generation, and how different the meanings and stories can be from one borough to the next. Rev. Hilderic Friend has filled this book with wonderful little quirks and details, tracing back the mythology from all over the world for a single wild flower. He also includes a large index of bibliography of flower lore and shares all of the reference material he used as he goes.
I stumbled across this book when tracking down the books listed in the Contents of Wilsford Manor, the home of Stephen Tennant. He owned a copy of a wonderful sounding book named Moon Lore written by Rev. Timothy Harley (there seems to be a running theme of reverends writing excellent books), which led me to this one on flowers. These books can be read on the Internet Archive, a non-profit library of millions of free books and more, scanned by various sources from around the globe. This copy of Flower Lore is from the University of Illinois and the copy of Moon Lore I have linked is from the University of Pittsburgh. Whenever I'm looking for a really rare book I more often than not find it on the Internet Archive.
The Pre-Raphaelite Language of Flowers
Debra N. Mancoff
"Containing an array of romantic paintings, this book brings together two important aspects of Victorian culture--the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the meaning of flowers."
"Few artistic movements capture classic notions of beauty as romantically as the Pre-Raphaelites--a group of nineteenth-century painters and poets who aimed to revive the purer art of the late medieval period. In this beautiful volume, Debra N. Mancoff, an expert on Pre-Raphaelite art and the floral lexicon, presents forty breathtaking works, which illuminate the meaning of flowers in all aspects of Victorian culture.
She offers brief commentaries on individual paintings as well as biographies of the period's leading artists and their models. This book is both a romantic keepsake as well as a captivating introduction to an artistic movement."
Language of Flowers
Another from the Internet Archive is Floral Poetry and the Language of Flowers. This book is not as rare as Flower Lore and copies can be found. The preface reads:
The Floral poetry, comprising the greater part of this book, has been selected with a view to the diversified tastes of those who may peruse it, and consequently a variety of styles will be found in the pieces. It is hoped, however, that most readers will not only light here upon old friends, but also acquaintance, for the first time, of poems and fragments that will give pleasure when recalled.
The book is split into four parts, the first containing "Poems on Flowers Generally" and in the second part "Poems on Special Flowers". Then there are two Indexes of the Language of Flowers in alphabetical order with "the months of flowering being introduced, it is hoped they will meet the wants of those using them."
The Complete Language of Flowers
A definitive and Illustrated History
The Complete Language of Flowers is a comprehensive encyclopedia providing the meanings, powers, facts, and folklore for over 1,001 flower species. Along with a beautiful visual depiction, each entry provides the flower's scientific and common names, characteristics, and historic meanings and powers from mythology, medieval legends, folklore, and flower poetry.
"For centuries, symbolic flower meanings have fascinated readers, writers, poets, and suddenly smitten couples alike. Extremely popular during the Victorian era, these floriographies flourished and versed the public on the hidden meaning of popular flowers. Together with stunning full-color illustrations and two indexes, one for searching by common flower name and the other organized by meaning, this beautiful reference is a must-have for gardeners, florists, and flower enthusiasts.
Whether you're looking to arrange the perfectly bespoken wedding bouquet or to understand what the yellow rose you just received from an admirer means (friendship), this updated floriography is a visual delight. Elegantly designed and beautifully illustrated, the Complete Illustrated Encyclopaedia series offers comprehensive, display-worthy references on a range of intriguing topics, including birthday astrology, dream interpretation, techniques for harnessing the power of dreams, and the stories behind signs and symbols all alongside 1,000 colour illustrations."
I hope you have found something new to read and if not, well I really don't know what to do with you. There may be a book to be found in The Library that's more to your tastes but if the flower lore of witches won't do it for you I don't know what will.