LE LANGAGE DES FLEURS.
Paris: Audot n.d. ca.1819. First edition. Louise Cortambert's LE LANGAGE DES FLEURS is popularly regarded as the first Western book on the language of flowers. Although there were, in fact, earlier works on floral symbolism and flower-based languages, Cortambert's was by far the most popular and became the source for many, if not most, of the numerous later works on the same subject. It was published in 1819 under the pseudonym of Charlotte de Latour, and its true authorship remained unsettled for many years. "The illustrations to Le Langage des Fleurs constitute one of the chief sources of its charm. The original drawings were prepared by a floral artist of considerable renown, Pancrace Bessa," (Lucia Tomasi, AN OAK SPRING FLORA, pg. 366). Bessa was a student of Redouté and achieved a reputation as the foremost painter of miniature botanical illustrations in his day. These hand-colored plates - a frontispiece and one plate for each month of the year - depict from one to three individual flowers above engraved captions giving their name and associated sentiment or virtue. The text is arranged by seasons. Sections for each month of the year are further divided into chapters devoted to the appropriate flowers, their lore and meaning. There is also a dictionary of the language of flowers and a table of floral attributes for each hour of the day. The work went through several editions, some with the same illustrations, but the quality of the hand coloring in the original edition is noticeably superior. Oak Spring Flora 97 (later edition); Dunthorne 34 (later edition). 12mo (13.4 by 8 cm); xvi + 299 + (1) pp. + 14 hand-colored plates, including frontispiece + hand-colored title.
Contemporary maroon leather with gilt ruled raised bands to spine, intricate gilt tooling at head and heel, gilt ornaments in panels and black leather title piece lettered in gilt; upper and lower covers with blind-stamped panels framed in gilt ornamentation and rule; a.e.g. overall light scuffing, with modest wear to corners; a printed quotation from Cicero is pasted onto the rear free endpaper; pasted onto the rear blank is a small printed payer to Mary asking for help in finding a husband; there is some light browning and occasional foxing to the text, but the plates are largely free of this on the actual impressions; with overslips for all except one plate.
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