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Shakespeare & Beyond

Five Folger Finds: A bouquet of flowers for spring

We’ve gathered a bouquet for you of flowers in the Folger collection, ranging from watercolor paintings to hand-colored copperplate engravings. Enjoy these five blooms in celebration of spring. (Click the pictures for zoomable versions in our digital image collection.)


A quote from Twelfth Night about violets with an illustration of the flowers

Begin your bouquet with a bunch of violets from The flowers of Shakespeare, a lovely book of watercolors by 19th-century floral painter Jane Elizabeth Giruad. The quotation that accompanies the illustration comes from the opening scene of Twelfth Night:

That strain again! It had a dying fall.
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odor.

– Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1



What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

These hand-colored illustrations of roses are from The herball, or, Generall historie of plantes by John Gerard, published in 1597. While the quotation above from Romeo and Juliet reflects roses’ association with romantic love, the flowers are also symbols of conflict. Just think of Shakespeare’s history plays depicting the Wars of the Roses, in which the House of Lancaster is represented by a red rose and the House of York by a white rose.

⇒ Related blog post: Roses, modern perfumes, and the myth of the Tudors



This picture of a hyacinth is from The British herbal, containing one hundred plates of the most beautiful and scarce flowers and useful medicinal plants which blow in the open air of Great Britain… by John Edwards, published in 1770. The hyacinth would have been a relatively new flower in Shakespeare’s England; the flower, which is indigenous to Asia Minor, traveled through trade networks to Europe in the 16th century

Pear blossoms

Pear flowers and fruit

Add some beautiful pear blossoms to your bouquet. This hand-colored illustration by Elizabeth Blackwell is found in A curious herbal, one of the earliest botanical books to have been compiled by a woman. Blackwell was a Scottish botanical illustrator, and her herbal was designed as a medical reference work. This book was published in 1739, a reissue of the 1737 edition. 



Finish your floral arrangement with these beautiful daffodils from a Dutch botanical work by Crispijn van de Passe, printed in 1615. Hortus floridus (A garden of flowers) is divided into sections according to the seasons, with daffodils appearing in the spring.

If you’re looking for some coloring pages with flowers from the Folger collection, we have one from Hortus floridus and two woodcuts from Paradisi in sole paradisus terrestris. or A garden of all sorts of pleasant flowers which our English ayre will permitt to be noursed (London, 1629). Share your coloring creations on social media using #ColorOurCollections and #FolgerFinds.


how very lovely to be greeted wit the flowers of Will !!!

maureen null — April 27, 2022