Boston: De Vries, Ibarra & Company, 1865. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. Top edge brightly gilt. Brown coated endpapers. Small dings to fore-edge of rear board and a bit of rubbing to corners, but in all tight, square, and pleasing. Bookplate of British oil merchant Francis Frederic Fox (1833-1915) to front pastedown; later ownership note in pen to verso of front endpaper. Complete, including all 12 chromolithographed plates. Light scattered foxing to endpapers and some plates, and occasional faint offsetting. Unmarked and retaining its bright colors. A lovely example of this scarce book.
Finding other botanical compendia insufficiently "adapted to American wants," Miss Ildrewe designs a work of her own. "The editor has consulted all the flower books known to her in English, French, and German and believes this will be found to contain a more copious dictionary and more appropriate descriptions than any of its predecessors." Indeed, the work is comprehensive and addresses a variety of readers -- from those engaged in botany, to those interested in poetry, to those who wish to put together (or read) a bouquet with unspoken meanings. Flora are divided in the beginning third by season, with Latin names, descriptions of the plant, information on cultural associations, and past medical uses;. To the rear, Miss Ildrewe adds a dictionary of literary quotations associated with flowers, and an extensive appendix for translating the meaning of a bouquet. This last was a popular practice, particularly among young friends and lovers, for conveying information without words. "Although the use of flowers to convey messages had been used in Persia and the Middle East, it was during the Victorian era and with the publication of flower dictionaries that the tradition began to spread throughout England. It became popular to use flwoers to send secrettive messages. Though often relaying positive messages of interest, affection, and love, flowers could send a negative message at times, and the same flower could have opposite meanings depending on how it was arranged or delivered" (Floriography). In this sense, Miss Ildrewe's work is most impressive, and it reveals her wealth of scientific knowledge, her awareness of European languages, and her aptitude at understanding and guiding readers through a complex series of cultural symbols. Her work further suggests that Americans had their own method of floriography, and that guides from other nations simply would not suffice. Near Fine (Item #3857)