Advanced Creation of Naturalistic Images

A florilegium (plural, florilegia) is a book of flower drawings. The word florilegium is derived from the Latin word florilegus, to gather flowers. Florilegia were originally designed as “beautiful books” of cultivated plants with little or no text other than the plant names engraved on the plates.

Publication of florilegia began in the late 1500s and early 1600s in response to a newly developing aesthetic revolution in Europe where plants in general, and their flowers and fruits in particular, came to be appreciated for their beauty and visual appeal. This aesthetic revolution coincided with the development of the ‘flower garden’.

Advances in ship building during the late 1400s resulted in the rapid increase in maritime exploration by European countries and led to the creation of European global empires with trade routes throughout the world. Royal and wealthy European patrons and businessmen imported new and exotic plants and established magnificent gardens, creating a new concept in gardening—the flower garden. Instead of growing a garden of herbal and medicinal plants for practical use, as was usual at that time, the flower garden was planted solely to display plants for their aesthetic value. The garden gave pleasure and enjoyment as well as status to the patron, and florilegia were produced to celebrate the patron’s garden.

Florilegia continued to be produced throughout the 1600s, some with black-and- white illustrations, others with colored illustrations. Unlike the plant illustrations in herbals of previous centuries that were often degraded due to repeated copying of the images, the plant drawings in florilegia were more structurally accurate and naturalistic, characteristics basic to botanical art. Thus, florilegia were very important to establishing the botanical art form.

Throughout subsequent years, florilegia have changed as botanical art has developed. In addition to being books of cultivated plants in a specific garden, they may also be of local or regional native plants not necessarily in a garden, and they now include more text with information about the plants. For many years florilegia have also existed as a curated collection of botanical art often exhibited to the public. As with The Besler Florilegium, all florilegia are of historical importance in that they establish visual and written records of the plants in time and place.

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