Friday, May 11, 2012

Say It With Flowers

A color illustration of a bundle of roses, "moss, damask, red and white."Roses are the perennially favorite flower for sending as gifts.  But what are you really saying when you send someone a dozen roses?  According to Sarah Hale's Flora's Interpreter (Boston: Thomas H. Webb; Co., 1833) it depends on the type of rose and the shape of the flower.

A red rose bud signifies a wish that the receiver remain ever pure and lovely while a damask rose hints at a bashful love. However, beware sending a thornless rose which is associated with a feeling of ingratitude or the dark Chinese rose with its message that the sender has been forsaken. Worse yet, is the withered white rose of despair.

A color illustration of a bundle of various flowers.
Hale lists numerous other flowers and ascribes a sentiment to each. She also provides a poem illustrating the associated sentiment, a literary extract mentioning the flower by name, the flower's scientific name and a brief description of it's characteristics and origin.

The title page for a book of letters.The language of flowers is thought to have evolved out of the eastern tradition, particularly that of Turkey, of associating certain objects with specific meanings. Lady Mary Montagu, who visited Turkey in the early eighteenth century, is credited with one of the earliest English accounts of this custom.  In the book Letters of the Right Honourable Lady M---Y W---y M----e (London: Homer and Milton, 1766), she details much of what she saw as typical Turkish life, including the language of objects. Interestingly enough, our copy, printed by "Homer and Milton," appears to be a pirated edition of the work and, according to the accompanying letter of provenance, may be the only existing copy of this particular printing.

Find out more about the language of flowers by asking for Rare Book GR 780 .H35 1833. Lady Mary's often scandalous accounts of Turkish life are found in Rare Book DA 501 .M7 L48.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Foolish Ida

A watercolor illustration of a girl draped in yellow, crouched in the air above a scene of a baby being guided along by a pair of small hooded figures.
Watercolor original
Maurice Sendak, the author of wildly funny and darkly tragic children's books, died this morning.  Sendak never shied away from the terrors of childhood even as he celebrated kids' slightly naughty side. Today we offer a highlight from our Morton E. Wise Collection of Maurice Sendak: the original artwork behind "Foolish Ida" of Sendak's Outside over There (New York: Harper and Row, 1981).

A pencil sketch of the same image.
Pencil sketch
Progressing from the pencil sketch through the watercolor to the final published image, you can see Sendak manipulating Ida's expression, transforming it from one of sad determination to one of deep mourning. A fitting tribute for today.

A finished illustration showing the same image.
Final published image
To see them, ask for Iconography 1610, 1611 and Illus S467out.