Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Florilegium

Pronounced /flɔərɪˈliːdʒɪəm/Help with pronunciation

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).

An illustration from Alexander Marshal’s Florilegium
An illustration from Marshal's Florilegium

However, florilegium first appeared in the English language in 1711 in a sense nearer the literal one: describing a collection of flower illustrations. This continued a usage that had begun a century earlier in the Latin titles of books by European illustrators like Emanuel Sweert and Jean Theodore de Bry. Though the word was soon after taken back by scholars to refer to collections of writings, this sense may still sometimes be found, for example in the title of a 1996 book A Hawaiian Florilegium, subtitled “Botanical Portraits from Paradise”.

Now another early collection, created by the seventeenth-century gentleman gardener Alexander Marshal, has been published after being hidden away for years in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, after being presented to George IV in thee 1820s. This book, too, has florilegium in its title and brought the term a wider audience.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+ Email

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 10 Jun. 2000

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-flo1.htm
Last modified: 10 June 2000.