Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Floral Birthday Book

I've wanted this book for five years now, but it's out of print - and not to be found in the used-book stores, thrift shops, yard sales or even church rummage swaps of three different countries. So I bit the bullet and ordered it from a third-party seller on Amazon.

And while that lacked the thrill of finding a fifty-cent copy of the book at a flea market, which happened with Dean Koontz's out-of-print How to Write Best Selling Fiction, I was too happy to care. The Floral Birthday Book, illustrated by artist Bernard Carter, is a wonderful addition to my library.

I've always loved the Victorian language of flowers, partly because it's not all pretty. Some flowers represent love and passion and constancy, but others stand for grief, rejection and deceit. And Bernard Carter's book is a faithful reproduction of an earlier Victorian text, where each day of the year is assigned a flower, a characteristic embodied by that flower and a short piece of classical poetry.

The paintings of the flowers are not just detailed, they're realistic as well. My favorite is the dragonfly alighting on the water lily. Though one of my friends looked up her birth flower and it turned out to be gorse. I read out the part about gorse symbolizing enduring affection, but she just looked disappointed. "I got a weed?" she said.

Good thing she wasn't born on December 5. That has a painting of "Withered Leaves", which would probably have been even less delightful than the "weed".

As well as being fun to look at and read, this book is a great icebreaker - everyone wants to find out what their flower is, and what it means. So if you have any special days, let me know in the comments and I'll reply with the flower and its meaning.

This one is for dldzioba, though the fine print didn't show up too well in the scan. Click on the pictures to take a closer look or read the poems.

The flower is the globe amaranth, which means Unchangeable.

And for Neutral Fire's birthday...

That's the Cluster Rose, which means You are Charming. :)


Courtney Rene said...

Well Happy Birthday! Glad you got yourself a good present then. Hope your day is lovely.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an awesome read. I've got a lovely book on Victorian traditions from my local used book store before it shut down.
And strangely, I've got a guy friend who is all sorts of into the language of flowers and things like that. He's a metal head. lol.
If you don't mind I'd love to know by birthday flower, November 6th.

Unknown said...

Sounds really cool! How about June 19th? It's my birthday. Or January 2nd, my parents' anniversary?

Marian Perera said...

Hope you like the pictures! Neutral Fire, January 2nd's plant is the bay, which means Glory, and the poem says,

"Ah! think, when a hero is sighing,
What danger in such an adorer!
What woman could think of denying
The hand that lays laurels before her?

No heart is so guarded around
But the smile of a victor would take it;
No bosom could slumber so sound,
But the trumpet of glory will wake it!"

Anonymous said...

I saw this book in St. Louis at the Gateway Arch. I flipped through the pages and fell in love with the book! Could you please remind me what the book said for January 18?

Marian Perera said...

Sure. :) January 18's plant is the Monterey Cypress, signifying Constancy, and the poem is by Donne:

"Be such, and only such, my friends,
Once mine, and mine for ever;
And here's a hand to clasp in theirs,
That shalt desert them never.

And thou be such, my gentle love,
Time, chance, the world defying;
And take - 'tis all I have - a heart
That changes but in dying."

Anonymous said...

That poem is just beautiful isn't it? I love it! Thank you!