New York: D. Appleton & Co, 1845. First edition. Publisher's green morocco binding discreetly rebacked with original spine laid down. Ornately stamped in gilt. All edges brightly gilt. Corners neatly repaired. Contemporary ownership signature of Mrs. H. G. Symme dated March of 1846 and later ownership stamp of E.C. Lyman to verso of front endpaper. Complete, including all 20 hand colored lithographs of wildflowers native to the Eastern seaboard. A scarce blend of botanical illustrations and literature, the present is the only copy currently on the market.
A botanical collection authored by a pioneer of women's activist literature should not be taken at face value. Praised in its own time for its vivid plates, and accompanied by scientific designations and descriptions of habitats, American Wild Flowers in actuality treats plantlife as a metaphor for women's experiences. Embury writes in her preface: "Everyone hears of our towering mountains, our mighty rivers, our dense forests, our ocean-like lakes, and our boundless prairies. The grand features of nature are so imposing we forget lesser the beauties, which amid gentler scenery would claim our chief interest...Yet why should our wild flowers lack the poetic association which lends such a charm to the 'pied daisy' and the 'primrose pale'?" With delicacy, Embury seeks to broaden readers' interest both in American plantlife and American authors often overshadowed by more famous figures. The prose and poetry compiled alongside the illustrations, indeed, connect to feminist themes. And Embury explains that where no author is designated (and among the named authors, suffragist Elizabeth Oakes Smith is most prominent), all other contributions were written expressly for the volume by her, or are earlier works that had been published under her pseudonym Ianthe and here are claimed for the first time. (Item #3521)