Florilegium: Flower Picture Books

Florilegium literally means a gathering of flowers. In medieval usage, it is a compilations of selected extracts from a larger work.

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This is post #6 of #BlogchatterA2Z.

This includes blogging every day in April for 26 days, except on Sundays. What’s special about it is that every day’s post will be corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. 

My theme for 2021 is Bookish TriviaIf you liked this post, don’t forget to “roll” me on Blogchatter’s website!

All my #BlogchatterA2Z posts 2021 can be found here.

While looking for words beginning with the letter L for my book trivia series, I came across this complicated-looking word called florilegium. It sounded like something to do with flowers (because “flori-“), and it turns out I was not too far off.

In botanical circles, a florilegium is an illustrated book about flowers. (pronounced flori-lee-jum)

The term was first used by Adriaen Collaert (Flemish designer and engraver) in 1590 in his book titled “Florilegium.”

It described a book depicting the beauty of flowers and plants rather than their medicinal value.

Florilegium flower paintings
Florilegium paintings

Florilegia were most popular between the 17th century and the 19th century and they featured collections of rare and exotic plants. They were often commissioned by wealthy people.

In modern times, florilegium are used to document plants growing in gardens of historical or botanical importance. They may also be used to display the diversity of a country’s plants or collections of rare and endangered plants.

Florilegium can also be used to describe collections of paintings and sketches of:

  • Plants found on voyages of discovery – covers several countries/ecosystems
  • Plants found in a known geographical area

Examples of Florilegium

The Highgrove Florilegium, a set of botanical prints describing the vegetables, fruits, and trees grown at Highgrove garden, UK. It is the first published British florilegium about a garden, created to mark the 60th birthday of Prince Wales. The first volume was published in 2008 and the second in 2009.

Highgrove Florilegium
Highgrove Florilegium; Source: Royal Collection Trust

The Highgrove Florilegium consists of 175 numbered sets of two volumes of a total of 120 watercolors of the plants in the Highgrove Garden, which is the family home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Florilegium
Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney Florilegium

Other examples of various florilegium are:

  • The Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society

  • Banks’ Florilegium (covers geographical locations discovered such as Madiera, Java, Australia, New Zealand, the Society Islands, Tierra del Fuego, and Brazil)

  • The North American Sylva (describes the forest trees of the US, Canada, and Nova Scotia)

  • The Transylvania Florilegium Project (21st century)

If you’d like to read about the details of various florilegia, please click here.

For a list of notable 20th and 21st century botanical artists, take a look here.


How is a Florilegium Created?

The floral images are created in two ways:

  • copperplate engraving (may be hand-painted)
  • hand-painted gouache/watercolors

There’s very little text in a florilegium – usually in the beginning to describe the owner of the plants and in the captions below the pictures.

Florilegia created in the 17th century tend to describe the flowers of the most valuable cultivars and show the different colors of flowers.

Here’s a video that shows how florilegium illustrations are created using watercolors:


Medieval Meaning of Florilegium

In literary terms, a florilegium (plural florilegia) is “a compilation of choice or representative selections, as from an author’s writings (Collins Dictionary).” However, this is a rare usage of the term.

The term was derived from medieval Latin, with flos meaning flower and legere meaning to gather. Thus, it literally means a gathering of flowers and editors who compile florilegium are considered to be gathering a bouquet of literary blooms.

The synonym of florilegium is “anthology,” which is derived from the Greek word for “flower gathering.”

Basically, it is a collection of extracts from the body of a larger work or an anthology.

In medieval times, florilegia were extracts taken from the writings of the Church Fathers (Christian theologians), philosophers like Aristotle, and classical writings.

The purpose of collecting the extracts was to highlight certain religious passages, themes, or topics.


Manipulus florum (“A Handful of Flowers”)

The Manipulus florum was written in the 14th century by an Irish secular clergyman, anthologist, writer, and indexer Thomas Hibernicus (Thomas of Ireland).

It is a collection of authoritative quotations in Latin compiled from the library of the Sorbonne, which was the biggest library at the time in medieval Europe. The library had 1017 books in 1289.

The Manipulus florum was widely used during the Middle Ages and remained popular until the 17th century. It was first printed in 1483 by Jacobus de Tyela in Piacenza.

After the medieval period, the term was extended to include any compilation of scientific or literary works.

A list of medieval manuscripts available at the Bodleian libraries and certain Oxford colleges can be found here.


References:

1) https://wordsmith.org/words/florilegium.html

2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florilegium

3) https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/florilegium

4) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/florilegium

5) https://jessieweihsuanchen.com/books-of-painted-flowers-on-paper-and-parchment-rethinking-the-florilegium-as-a-book-genre/

6) https://www.slashseconds.co.uk/peter-lewis/16/679/submission/florilegium–text-/

7) https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/news/the-making-of-the-highgrove-florilegium

8) https://www.botanicalartandartists.com/florilegia-and-flora.html

9) https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/Science/Botanical-Illustration/The-Florilegium

10) https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=3709

11) https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=257

18 comments on “Florilegium: Flower Picture Books”

  1. Wow, I’m so flattered. Extra motivation for me to finish the challenge. Tell your son that I will try hard to keep it interesting. 🙂

    Like

  2. This is so fascinating. Reading these trivia was so interesting and that final video had a soothing touch. What a unique way to learn about flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Florilegium is also a collection of literary pieces as well as flowers too. I’m sure the florilegium book with magnificent flowers must be a beautiful one. Thanks for sharing this beautiful video, how keenly and perfectly they display the artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

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