Historiana blog: history, art, culture, nature, science

Welcome to the Historiana blog. Here I share a selection of treasures from books, museums, the world at large, & the wonderful online librairies and collections of the internet. To quote Howard Carter: ‘I see wonderful things!’

Say it with flowers, Victorian-Ottoman style

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Some pretty illustrations from ‘Floral Emblems’ by Henry Phillips, 1825. This was one of the principal ‘floral dictionaries’ used by enthusiasts for Victorian ‘floriography’, or ‘the language of flowers’. It appears that this Victorian craze developed partly from Ottoman customs, which were initially imported to Britain by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who lived in Turkey as wife of the British Ambassador. British culture also had a history of floral symbolism, as referred to by Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet; but the idea of sending coded messages using a more complex system of flower-meanings, came from the Ottoman custom. To quote from Henry Phillips: “It is observed by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, that in Turkey, you may through the assistance of these emblems, either quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even news, without ever inking your fingers, for she says, there is no colour, no weed, no flower, no fruit, herb, nor feather, that has not a verse belonging to it.” 

The entire book is available online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/30410#page/11/mode/1up

Lady Montagu was a fascinating character, and I’ll be returning to her in my next post…

Robin & leaves, Floral Emblems

 

Floral Emblems bouquet Historiana Designs

 

Ewer, Floral Emblems

 

Poetry & Painting - Floral Emblems

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