Saturday, April 26, 2008

Volume 1 of The Highgrove Florilegium is published

This week the first volume of the Highgrove Florilegium was published by Addison Publications. In this post I'm looking at
  • the definition of a Florilegium,
  • the publication of the first volume of the Highgrove Florilegium
  • Historical Florilegia
  • Contemporary Florilegia in the making
The Highgrove Florilegium (Volume 1)

What is a Florilegium?

What's a 'florilegium' you may well ask? I'll try and explain. In essence, it's a formal botanical illustration record of a collection of flowers.
Florilegium (plural Florilegia) is a Latin word for a collection of 'flowers' (excellent excerpts), from the corpus of a considerably larger oeuvre. It was adapted from the Greek anthologia or anthology, with the same etymological meaning.
Wikipedia - Florilegium
and a slightly different perspective as to its etymology from World Wide Words
A collection of writings; a portfolio of flower pictures.
This Latin word is from flor–, a flower, and legere, to gather or collect. In that language it didn’t refer literally to flowers, but to little flowers of composition, choice poems or epigrams by various authors (it’s the exact Latin equivalent of the Greek anthology, which derives from anthos, a flower, and –logia, a collection). However, florilegium first appeared in the English language in 1711 in a sense nearer the literal one: describing a collection of flower illustrations.
World Wide Words - Florilegium
According to Christopher Mills, the Librarian at Kew Gardens, the term florilegium is now generally accepted to have been first employed by Adriaen Collaert (1560-1618) in his work simply entitled ‘Florilegium’ published in 1590.

I'd make the additional observation that the meaning of the word in terms of both historical and contemporary florilegia seems to suggest that another aspect of the use of the word relates to it meaning a record of plants associated with a particular place (see both historical and contemporary examples below) whether that be static or visited on a journey.

What is the Highgrove Florilegium?

Painting and horticulture are two major interests of the Prince of Wales which are combined in The Highgrove Florilegium. This started as a project in 2000 to mark the Prince's achievements in his garden and to provide a historical record of the plants. The first volume was published this week after six years work - in his 60th birthday year.

The Highgrove Florilegium will comprise two volumes of 120 watercolours which record the plants in the gardens at Highgrove, which is the family home near Tetbury in Gloucestershire of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

The garden at Highgrove is entirely organic and represents a physical embodiment of the Prince's environmental philosophy that it is better to work with nature than against it. (Note: You can apply to tour the garden at Highgrove in parties of 25 people but there is currently a two year waiting list)
The watercolour paintings of plants in the garden have been produced by some of the best contemporary botanical artists including Fay Ballard (see my posts here and here) Gillian Foster Katherine Manisco, Kate Nessler and Jenny Phillips. Anne Marie Evans, MA FLS, the artist who developed the diploma course in Botanical Painting at the Chelsea Physic Garden leads the selection panel who ensure that the paintings meet the highest standards. I've got access to the complete list if anybody is interested in who else is participating in this project.

You can see slideshows of the works included in the Highgrove Florilegium if you click here and /or here.

There will be a limited edition set of a facsimile of the Highgrove Florilegium in two volumes in a leather half-binding available on subscription at a price of (take a deep breath) £10,950. You may wonder about the price. Well, the production process is very interesting - with an emphasis on quality in terms of both archival quality standards, craftsmanship and hand finishing. Each set will also be signed by the Prince of Wales and it's expected that the second volume will be published next year. All royalties from the publication will be donated to the Prince’s Charities Foundation to support its activities
The images will be printed in England on especially-made archival paper by the stochastic lithographic process, the most up to date and appropriate technique for reproducing the delicacy and detail of watercolour paintings. The text will be printed using Somerset paper, again, in a special making for this publication. Richard Shirley Smith’s drawings of features from the Highgrove garden have been incorporated into endpapers for the book and vignettes for the text. The pages will be collated and sewn by hand in the Yorkshire bindery of Stephen Conway, who runs one of the few craft binderies in England. Victoria Hall in Norwich is marbling the sheets of paper for the sides of the book by hand. The spine and foredge are covered in red chieftain goat skin and especially cut tools have been made for James Brockman, the eminent designer book binder who will hand finish the books in gold leaf
Addison Publications - The Highgrove Florilegium.
The Daily Telegraph has provided a very informative article about the development of the Highgrove Florilegium - Highgrove: the Florilegium returns. The New York Sun also had an article A Modern British Florilegium which related to the recent show of watercolour drawings from the Highgrove collection in New York.

Interestingly, according to the preface written by the Prince of Wales, the Florilegium will be used as archive to help teach botanical art at his School of Traditional Arts in Hoxton - which is in the same building but two floors down from the Princes Drawing School which I go to for my drawing class each week. Maybe I can go there in future to learn more about botanical art?

Florilegium in history

Florilegia had their heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some examples include , and Besler's Hortus Eystettensis, a 17th-century work that contains 367 engraved plates depicting more than 1,000 flowers.

Here are some links to Florilegia in history
  • Jardin du Roy by Pierre Vallet (c. 1575-1657), a record of Henri IV's garden
  • Besler's Hortus Eystettensis (1613) - a copy of which I saw at Kew last Saturday (Kew opens the world's first dedicated botanical art gallery) - contains 367 engraved plates depicting more than 100 flowers and provided a catalogue of the rare specimens growing in the spectacular gardens created in Bavaria by Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad von Gemmingen of Eichstätt
  • Banks' Florilegium - this consists of seven hundred and forty three botanical line engravings, after the watercolours which were drawn to record the plants collected by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Dabiel Solander in Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Java on Captain James Cook's first voyage round the world, 1768-1771.

Florilegium around the world

A number of places in the UK are currently developing florilegia. For example,
The primary aim remains the portrayal of the Garden's entire collection and, as there are more than 5000 plants listed, current members are still merely laying the foundations of a vast project! From the members' annual submission of paintings and pen and ink drawings, work is selected by an independent panel to maintain highest standards. Over 200 watercolours and 120 drawings have currently been accepted. All plant material is grown in the Garden and Herbarium specimens are also prepared. The Head Gardener and his team continue to instruct and help members, willingly providing both cuttings and advice when requested.
Chelsea Physic Garden
In addition, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew employs botanical artists to record plants at Kew. The current Kew Magazine has an interesting article - Making Masterpieces about this which is available in readable pdf format.

So - are you involved with a Florilegium Society or maybe making a formal record of the flowers in your garden? I'd love to hear from people involved in similar projects.


  1. When I first heard about the Highgrove Florilegium on Radio 4, I thought: Ha! Here is a book Katherine won't be able to tempt me into buying. So far, so good, which just goes to show that raising the price can lower consumption ;)

  2. Teeheehee!

    But have I tempted you with the idea of starting your very own Florilegium for your own garden in Tuscany.

    I'd love to know whether there are any Italian Florilegia? (I'm being so good remembering my Latin which is quite remarkable given how appalling I was at Latin!)

  3. I was thinking of starting my own Florilegium earlier and then I thought it was a tad pretentious, but with your encouragement I could be pretentious.

    I will try to check out Florilegia (well done!) in Italy - with all the beautiful old manuscripts here, I can't believe there isn't. I've certainly seen beautiful illustrations of herbal uses for plants in old books here. I'll get back to you.

  4. I think the Herbals are older and more extensive. I got the impression that putting a Florilegium together was a bit of a tall order

    Do take a look at the links to Herbals and Florilegia that I've got in my Botanical Art - Resources for Artists plus there's the wikipedia article (just above) which I have yet to explore

    I think developing a Florilegium of your garden is an ace idea. I think you ought to ask all arty guests to contribute a drawing as well!

  5. What a glorious book! Hummm...I had no idea Prince Charles was so close to me in age...I'm 65, and I always think of him as being so much younger!


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