About a year ago, before our lives changed so suddenly and drastically, I was about to have printed a book of rose stories ‘The Soul of the Rose’. It was to include 30 stories and many images, also quotations and verse. Now that plan has changed. I am not only showcasing the museum on line but also the stories that were to be in the book. They include some amazing people . . . . . .
220 years have passed since the very first book was published in English dedicated to the rose. In the first half of the 19th century there were few books published: rose varieties were few in number, their popularity was limited and printing was less accessible. As the decades passed, numbers of rose varieties increased, more people had disposable money for gardening and printing developed. The numbers of rose books increased reflecting the growing popularity of roses. During the 20th century roses became increasingly popular with more books about roses being published each decade apart from the 1940’s war years. The peak of rose book publication was the 1990s when, according to the library calculations, 20% of all books dedicated to the rose and written in English were published.
Rose research and information gathering continues across the world. There have been and continue to be serious scientific studies, into the growth and nature of rose plants, in a number of academic institutions. There is much learning being gained from the hybridisation, propagation and growth of roses within the rose nurseries across the world. There are also people, like me, who wish to make the full story of the rose known by researching her history, exploring her fame and documenting the stories they discover. The accumulation of all this information has created a vast range of published works documenting the rose.
However, in the two decades since the millenium it is evident there has been a decline in the number of rose books published. Perhaps this is not surprising as the rose is having to hold her own among the myriad of other glorious plants that are easier to grow or take up less space in our smaller gardens and less time in this busy world. During the 20th century the ‘Queen of Flowers’ was at the peak of her reign; could it be time for her to relinquish the throne. She will never leave the court; there are too many supporters wishing to keep her notoriety alive by growing roses in their gardens, exhibiting at rose shows or buying cut roses for the house. The rose is also a useful commodity in the perfume industry.
The Rosarian Library is working towards collecting the complete set of all the rose texts, written in English, from the last 220 years. The detail, accumulated to date about the rose, must be gathered together and preserved in one library. Although there must be many copies of each text on shelves throughout the world it is clear that some of the books are proving difficult to find and when they are found they are expensive.
It does not seem possible that any one flower could take the place of the rose but it may be that the 21st century will see the rose’s glory fade a little. Rose research will become more important than ever. It is hoped that scientific research will continue, documenting information for horticuturalists, botanists and other scientists. The Rosarian Library and others will continue non-scientific research which covers a huge field of both historical and contemporary detail which contributes to the commentary on our social history. Whether it be the roses of the Greek and Roman Temples, the English Monastery Gardens, the early 20th century rose gardens of England or the roses of Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Rachel Ruysch or Albert Williams the research is crucial and should be recorded.
As with most research the Rosarian Library research has led to more books being collected, not only those dedicated to the rose but also a wider collection of horticultural, art and literature books. The Library now has a growing separate horticultural section. A shelf of Bibliographies seems to have accumulated and a group of Biographies together with a stack on art and illustration. All the texts by various authors such as Eleanour Sinclar Rohde and Gertrude Jekyll are creeping in. They loved the old roses which are still popular with many rose lovers today.
The Library will certainly play its part in keeping the rose alive and flourishing. A book of short stories will be published portraying the rose and hopefully giving a flavour of the library itself. A more serious text about the British books dedicated to the rose is being researched and hopefully will follow soon after. Lists of rose books, rose artists and rose gardens will be printed to add to the publications already available; a leaflet about the library and a booklet detailing 19th century literature. Of course a second edition of rose stories is being researched.
The Rosarian Library is a significant resource in its specialist field. In 2020 the intention is for this to continue and for the library to grow. The numbers of books will be increased, further knowledge discovered and more information shared. Regardless of what happens with the popularity of the rose the ‘Queen of Flowers’ will always reign supreme here.
This painting by Albert Williams was used to illustrate a Christmas card by the Royal National Rose Society. I will use it to say Happy New Year.
At last my books and I have a new home! When I wrote my last blog/article in August last year I did not realise it would be six months before my next. It is great to be back ‘at the drawing board’ so to speak.
The move from one house and county to another has been a logistical challenge but one that seems to be working out well. At least the books do not seem to have suffered from a month or two of storage and during their sojourn they acquired one or two other companions as a result of their owner suffering from withdrawal symptoms!
It has been a challenge but a privilege to be able to build, with the help of a few good artisans, a small bespoke library for the majority of the rose books and a great study where I have located the older precious books and all the paper ephemera such as catalogues and articles that this collector has amassed. I would say I started from a blank canvas but the canvas wasn’t particularly blank with a 1980’s fireplace (in an Edwardian house!) and carpets and curtains to match.
At one point I thought it would never happen and just when the end was in sight the boxes arrived! Wow – I could hardly move but it never seems to amaze me how quickly circumstances can change, especially when you have a couple of family members with strength and spirit and a huge amount of positivity. Hard work and sheer determination to see it through made us fitter and me wiser. Never again!
With this story unfolding I needed to use the time profitably so a fair amount of time was spent reading and researching, also searching for rose books I did not have. I must have acquired 20 or so to add to the shelves; a number through Bookfinder.com but also one or two from second hand book shops which I love to visit.
The total number of unique books, dedicated solely to roses, on The Rosarian Library shelves now stands at 580. If I counted duplicates, triplicates and so on there would be well over 1000. As I have had the time I have been through the list of titles quite rigorously deleting any repetitions or catalogues and articles that have crept in. The number of titles dedicated to the rose I currently believe to be 962 but, of course, I cannot have found them all so I would still like ‘to hedge my bets’ and suggest it may be nearer the thousand mark.
I realise that as a result of the research I have been doing I have collected many books on rose related topics such as the history of gardening, rosarians and gardeners, art and artists, the history and nature of books as well as many books with sections on roses. I love them all so have filled all my old book shelves with these. They reside in the studio on the first floor.
I don’t expect one can go through such a radical move without any traumas at all but I have had only one, namely British Telecom. In their efforts to keep me very secure I have been unable to use my email address so have had to change it, which has meant changing it on my website too. If you have tried to contact me through my previous email address I am sorry for my lack of response. Please go through the contact page on my website.
Please keep the requests for research coming in. I love to deviate from my own research in which I invariably get bogged down!
Wow! Three articles about the library published in as many months. The Rosarian Library is reaching a wider public! I am thrilled as I know, for the rosarian, it is a great resource and for me personally it is rewarding to see the library grow and its many books providing information for people with an amazing range of projects.
The first article appeared in the February 2018 ‘Rose Society UK’ Newsletter, the second in the Spring 2018 ‘Historic Roses Group Journal’ and the third in the July issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’ all of which I enjoy reading myself. I would like to thank the editors of these three publications for recognising that the theory behind the pratice is worthy of promotion and for including The Rosarian Library among their pages..
An organisation promoting the rose across the UK.
I hope that many rose enthusiasts enjoyed the articles and appreciate the great diversity of subject matter that can be contained in the books about one particular flower. I know most rose enthusiasts prefer growing roses rather than reading about them but I do think that many of the books that have been published in the UK since that very first one in 1799 can enhance our love and appreciation of The Rose.
My great love is for the 19th century rose books which I still find inspirational and informative today. In my research into 19th century rose literature including not just books but catalogues, periodicals, articles and pamphlets I am pleased to discover that other like minded people have gone before me and have left behind articles about rose literature that are useful for my own research. I hope that I can build on these by gathering further information that will be useful to the researchers of the future.
Articles which I have found useful include:
Arthur William Paul ‘The Literature of The Rose’ The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (1913-1914) Vol.39.
Mrs H.R. Darlington ‘Rose Literature of the Past Fifty Years’ The Rose Annual of the National Rose Society 1926 (pp. 79 – 101).
Theo Mayer ‘Victorian Rose Literature’ The rose Annual of The Royal National Rose Society 1970 (pp. 139 – 170).
Then, of course, there are those dedicated individuals who have collated all books and articles into Bibliographies. These are incredibly useful when researching book titles, authors, publishers, dates etc as much of the tedious work has been done for you. A concern is that the most recently published bibliography of Rose Books, that I know of, only collates books written before 1984. I hope there is an entreprising person who is taking on the challenge for the last 30 years and as we go forward.
The work of the library flourishes and the books increase in number. Books dedicated solely to the rose are the main focus but the gardening books with some rose information and those discussing garden history I find difficult to ignore, especially the older ones. My research about 19th century rose literature is slowly coming together but still has a fair way to go. I am always pleased to put my personal research aside for various projects that come in. Other peoples research seems so much more interesting than mine. Perhaps because I usually know little about the subject and have to use the Rosarian Library literature to find out, which is ‘the object of the exercise’, of course.
Not far from where I live, in a little market town, there is a shop/gallery for sale with plenty of living accommodation and a garden too. Regardless of financial issues am I courageous enough and do I have sufficient energy to open a long dreamed about museum?
Of course I could not aspire to the dizzy heights of the numerous and beautiful artefacts gathered together by Jules Gravereaux at the end of the twentieth century at La Roseraie de l’Hay near Paris but perhaps I could work towards the more compact and personal “House of Roses” that was lovingly collected by Jean Gordon in the 1960’s in the small town of Augustine in Florida. These two museums and the recently opened Rose Museum in Beijing are the only permanent ‘monuments’ to the rose of which I am aware. Please tell me if you know of others.
The Roses in the gardens of La Roseraie de l’Hay must be coming into full bloom at this time and looking beautiful. It was the ambition of Jules Gravereaux, on his retirement from the Bon Marche department store to indulge his passion for roses. In 1892 he bought the property at l’Hay and began his magnificent collection of roses by contacting collectors at the botanical gardens all over the world. As his collection outgrew its allotted space a landscape architect, Edouard Andre was commissioned to design a special rose garden. As well as being able to boast a vast collection of roses Jules Gravereaux also wanted to display them in as many ways as possible to maximum effect. With his variety of arches, pergolas, tunnels and trellises he succeeded and achieved one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.
By 1900 M.Gravereaux had amassed approximately 3,000 different roses with this number growing to 8,000 in 1906. 500 of these were species roses which he called his ‘Collection Botanique’. The varieties i.e. the cultivated roses were his ‘Collection Horticole’. I am lucky to have in my library a Catalogue entitled Roseraie de l’Hay and dated 1900 listing the 3,000 species and varieties he had collected by this time. This little Catalogue also has many black and white photographs of the gardens showing the beautiful structures many of which still exist today.
As the garden grew so did his collection of rose artefacts. His house as well as his garden was full of roses asa well as images of roses. He had an office and laboratory housed in a building in the centre of the rose garden where he also kept an ever increasing collection of books, drawings, paintings, scultures, textiles, pottery and porcelain, stamps and coins. How tremendous it must have been to see this collection in its day but sadly it is no longer as the majority was stolen in 1980. Fortunately there survives a list ‘La Rose Dans Les Sciences Dans Les Lettres Et Dans Les Arts’ (1906) which catalogues the amazing collection. I have to satisfy myself with a reprint; an original must be extremely rare.
Jean Gordon’s Museum in St Augustine, on the other hand, has been reopened I understand. Jean, author and rose historian, founded the “House of Roses” in 1956 and ran it from her home until 1966. It was only after her second marriage and widowhood that she began to write about rosesand to collect a vast array of rose memorabilia. She wrote several books dedicated to the rose including ‘Immortal Roses’ (1959) where I read about the existence of her rose museum, ‘Pageant of the Rose’ (1953) and ‘The art of Cooking with Roses’ (1968).
“To mention a few of the displays there are: stamps incorporating a rose design from many nations, English coins showing the Tudor Rose, desert or rock roses, a gold metal rose from France and a spray of wrought iron roses from Germany, and antique rose-shaped butter molds. In addition, there are six complete exhibits featuring the Rose in Symbolism, Religion, the Orient, England, France and America. Wall panels display pictures that show the use of the rose in medicine, art, music; the fascinating genealogy of the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose, and rose fossils estimated to be 35 million years old.”Taken from ‘Immortal Roses’ by Jean Gordon.
Jean Gordon’s Rose books are in The Rosarian Library and I gain inspiration from them regularly. There must be other museums like hers that have been in existence or continue to be in existence now. Please tell me about them.
I know little about the Rose Museum in Bejing apart from it was completed in 2016 and opened on the day of the World Federation of Rose Societies Convention held in Beijing. It is huge covering an area of 30,000 square metres and is made from stainless steel complete with perforated rose designs. A number of displays are dedicated to the history of the rose and rose breeding. Although I am piqued that it is heralded as the world’s first rose museum; I feel that accolade should go to Jules Gravereaux and his wonderful collection, I would very much like to make a visit!
Whether I will open my own museum or not I am not sure; watch this space. . . . .
Also watch out for the July issue of ‘Gardens Illustrated’!