Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Language of Flowers, in 1856

"The Illustrated Language of Flowers"
Anna Christian Burke, via Google Books (1856)


"In bespeaking for the 'Illustrated Language of Flowers' the favourable notice of her fair readers, the Editor cannot pretend to offer them anything decidedly novel either in material or arrangement. The meaning attached to flowers, to have any utility, should be as firmly fixed as possible; no licence whatever has therefore been taken in creating or changing meanings...."

The publisher, G. Routledge & Co., has London as a primary address, then New York - which helps explain some of the spelling. And remember, this book was written over a century and a half ago.

Despite the distinctly 19th-century style of the preface, the book itself is a set of lists: a "Dial of Flowers" for use by someone planing a flower clock; an alphabetic list of flower names with their associated meanings - from "Abecedary - Volubility" and "Abatina - Fickleness," to "Zephyr Flower - Expectation" and "Zinnia - Thoughts of absent friends;' and another list, sorted by meanings, from "Absence - Wormwood" and "Abuse not - Crocus" to "Zealousness - Elder" and "Zest - Lemon."

I'm not sure how practical the book is today, since few folks understand the language of flowers - but I enjoyed looking through it to see how people had assigned meanings to flowers - to a point where short messages could be sent without the use of words.

Despite that "illustrated" in the title, though, there are very few pictures in the book. That's not so much of a problem for me, since I'm mostly interested in the symbolism it records.

Related post:
A tip of the hat to jackiehodson, on BlogCatalog, who left a comment on the "The Language of Flowers: Who Knows Good Online Resources?" discussion thread that led me to "The Illustrated Language of Flowers."

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