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Written in Petals: The Language of Flowers in Victorian Europe

White lilies for grief. Snowdrops for hope. Daisies for innocence. Red roses for love, yellow for friendship. Floriography – sending messages with flowers – is an ancient art, rooted in the symbolism of China, Egypt, and Assyria.  In 19th century Europe a floriography-centered literary genre blossomed and a publishing industry that produced poetry, dictionaries, essay collections and often exquisite botanical art flourished. Drawing from a collection of gems donated to Mann by garden writer Isabel Zucker ’26, this new online exhibit at Mann Library provides a tour of the Language of Flowers as a cultural phenomenon that flourished during the Victorian era. As this display reminds us, what we humans see in nature—in this case flowers—reveals much about how we see and relate to ourselves.

Viewable online at exhibits.library.cornell.edu/written-in-petals