Baltimore: Published by Fielding Lucas Jr., [ 1837]. 136,87pp., plus fifty-seven handcolored plates, including additional pictorial titlepage and presentation leaf. Quarto. Later full brown morocco ruled and stamped in gilt and blind, spine gilt with raised bands, a.e.g. Ownership inscription on front free endpaper ("Caro B. Turnbull"), presentation leaf is inscribed ("Miss C. Butler, November 20th 1850") and has the shape of a hummingbird trimmed out of the center of the page. Slight shelfwear. Lacks plate . Occasional light foxing, even tanning to plates. Still very good, with the illustrations beautifully colored. Item #WRCAM55313
An attractive copy of the first book to broadly popularize the concept of a language of flowers for American readers. An undated issue, but apparently an 1837 printing of this pioneering color plate book. According to Bennett, the 1837 edition gives a date of 1837 on the printed titlepage. The present copy has no printed date, but the titlepage verso has a copyright date of 1837, the preface is dated 1829, and the gift inscription is dated 1850. The only other edition produced after the 1837 edition was in 1855. Elizabeth Washington Gamble Wirt (1784-1857) began working on a dictionary of flowers solely for the entertainment of her family and friends, however they encouraged her to publish it. The first edition appeared in 1829 with the authorship attributed only to "a Lady." The book was exceedingly popular, going through several reprintings until 1835, when Wirt was finally credited as the author under the byline "Mrs. E.W. Wirt of Virginia" (her husband, William, was U.S. Attorney General). Early editions had no illustrations apart from the black-and-white wood-engraved borders on text pages (still present in this edition), but starting in 1837, copies were issued with varying numbers of colored plates (never more than fifty- eight total) attributed to Miss Ann Smith. Wirt's book was one of the first two floriographical dictionaries in early 19th-century America; the other was Dorothea Dix's THE GARLAND OF FLORA (1829). Dix's work was less comprehensive and did not sell well, but Flora's DICTIONARY was "a phenomenal success" (Seaton, p.85). Wirt distinguished herself with a much greater concern for the scientific aspects of her subject, including in-depth botanical notes in addition to exceptionally attractive images. "One of the most popular genres of color plate books in the antebellum period were those devoted to the sentiments associated with flowers. Color illustrations of flowers were accompanied by a text which guided the reader through the hidden meanings of different blooms, with quotations and poetry appropriate to each. This is a pioneering example of the type, issued by the publisher of many early books with color, Fielding Lucas of Baltimore" - Reese. "The arrangements of the flowers are beautifully balanced and the coloring is brilliant" - Bennett. A beautifully-colored example of a popular 19th-century American color plate book. SABIN 104868. McGRATH, p.36. BENNETT, p.115. REESE, STAMPED WITH A NATIONAL CHARACTER 52. Beverly Seaton, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS: A HISTORY (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012).