This week, I thought I'd share a recent addition to my collection of antiquities- this edition of 'The Language of Flowers' by Kate Greenway.
It was first published in 1884; I don't know whether it's a first edition, but the inscription inside dates it at 1885, so it's definitely from the Victorian period!
I reached out to Instagram to help me decipher this handwriting, so if you were one of the helpers thank you so much!
In grammatical analysis
H & M McLeod Johnson
July 17th 1885
It really is a beautiful edition, with lovely illustrations accompanying the flower definitions, harkening back to the romantic Regency period.
What is the language of flowers?
The 'language of flowers' was big in the Victorian era. Hidden meanings assigned to certain flowers that were then collated into a bouquet to give to a lover, friend or family member.
We've seen fads like this through the eras; in the 1950s girls wore dog collars on their ankles to signify relationship status, as well as where they placed the bow in their hair.
Also during the Victorian era, and slightly earlier, there was the 'language of the fan' to communicate secretly across a ballroom. There have also been long-enduring meanings behind certain things because of various sources; doves meaning peace, for example, ivy longevity and heart love.
I always wonder if there was different definitions spanning across different books and periodicals, so if someone gave a bouquet that they thought meant true love but their lover interprets as being spurned!
This 'language' also bled into other mediums, certain flowers being etched into jewellery (like I explored in my love tokens post), used in fabric prints and wallpapers.
The book is in alphabetical order and I haven't typed up every definition, so if there's a favourite flower of yours that you want to know the meaning of, feel free to leave a comment!
Note that there are some repeats of meanings. There are also some not-so-common bouquet additions included!
Aloe: Grief. Religious superstition.
Ambrosia: Love returned.
Apple (blossom): Preference. Fame speaks him great and good.
Asphodel: My regrets follow you to the grave.
Bay leaf: I change but in death.
Cherry tree: Good education.
Christmas rose: Relieve my anxiety.
Clematis: Mental beauty.
Corn, broken: Quarrel.
Corn straw: Agreement.
Cowslip: Pensiveness. Winning grace.
Cranberry: Cure for heartache.
Crocus: Abuse not.
Currant: Thy frown will kill me.
Enchanter's nightshade: Witchcraft. Sorcery.
Fool's parsley: Silliness.
Forget me not: True love.
Garden daisy: I partake your sentiments.
Garland of roses: Reward of virtue.
Gillyflower: Bonds of affection.
Grass: Submission. Futility.
Hemlock: You will be my death.
Hibiscus: Delicate beauty.
Hollyhock: Ambition. Fecundity.
Honeysuckle: Generous and devoted affection.
Horse chestnut: Luxury.
Hyacinth: Sport. Game. Play.
Hydrangea: A boaster. Heartlessness.
Orange blossoms: Your purity equals your loveliness.
Orange flowers: Chastity. Bridal festivities.
Orange tree: Generosity.
Prickly pear: Satire.
Primrose: Early youth.
Reed: Complaisance. Music.
Reed, split: Indiscretion.
Thistle, common: Austerity.
Thorn apple: Deceitful charms.
Tree of life: Old age.
Tuberose: Dangerous pleasures.
Walnut: Intellect. Stratagem.
Wall-flower: Fidelity in adversity.
Water lily: Purity of heart.
Water melon: Bulkiness.
Wheat stalk: Riches.
White jasmine: Amiableness.
White rose (dried): Death preferable to loss of innocence.
Willow, weeping: Mourning.
Witch hazel: A spell.
The book closes with the definitions the other way around (the meaning followed by the flower), and a collation of poetry, all flower-themed and rather lovely.
And a list of the illustrations...
If you can't find your favourite flower, leave a comment below and I'll see if I can find it in the book for you!
Will you try your hand at a themed bouquet? I have definitely come across a couple of flowers that I'd like to give to people!
Until next time,