Oriental floriography

Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley. Lettres de Mde Wortley Montague, ecrites pendant ses voyages en Europe, en Asie & en Afrique &c. Traduites de l’anglois.

Berlin, August Mylius, 1764.

8vo. XII, 244 pp. With several woodcut head- and tailpieces. Contemporary half calf with giltstamped red label to spine. All edges red.


One of several French editions published shortly after the 1763 English original (second Berlin ed.). During the years 1716-18, Lady Mary Montagu (1689-1762) accompanied her husband, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, on his diplomatic mission to Constantinople and back. "When she left Vienna she received as many admonitions as though she were journeying to the ends of the earth. The letters she wrote back home are justly ranked among the most celebrated of their kind in a century richly endowed with excellent letterwriters [...] It is stated that there were five translations of these letters into French" (Cox). "Lady Mary’s 'Letters' are remarkably well written, and show masculine sense rather than tenderness. She says that she can be a friend, but does not know whether she can love [...] Lady Mary’s interest in the manners of the country is shown by her 'Letters', and she learnt a little Turkish" (DNB XIII, 706f.).

The symbolic meanings of flowers in the Orient, which Lady Mary mentioned in her work, provoked a fashion of the "language of flowers" (floriography) in Europe. Lady Mary was familiar with all the great persons of her age, most of all with Pope, who admired her.

Lithogr. bookplate (c. 1800) on front pastedown; front cover creased. Old library stamp.

Cf. DNB XIII, 709. Cox I, 229f.