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Image of album page - Flowers of the Holy Land

Pressed Flower Albums

By the second half of the 19th century there was a major change in the stream of pilgrims to the Holy Land, due to the improvement of transportation, and the establishment of embassies of European countries in Ottoman Jerusalem, which added safety for the visiting people.

Among the popular typical souvenirs were cards with pressed flowers from the holy places around the country. The spring wild flowers are everywhere in this country in the main visiting time, end of December through end of April. This made the flowers a pretty and vivid memento for the visitors from the colder climates.

The well known British, European and American habit of pressing and preparing "bouquets of gracefully arranged flowers" was also practiced in Jerusalem in the form of small books with olive wood covers.

Image of olive wood album cover

Most of them bear no date so only the handwritten dedications give the only clue to when they were produced. For example, the oldest one, and the most beautiful and impressive in my collection, is from 1876 being a gift of a son to his mother for the occasion of her birthday.

Image of title page of album

Literature concerning these albums, in Jerusalem, is scarce. I know of three ladies who lived in Jerusalem and mentioned this subject in their memories: Miriam Harry, who lived in the city as a child, Bertha Spafford-Vester, the Leader of the American Colony, and Selma Lagerlof who lived in the American Colony for several months.

Q I am looking for some background knowledge about: Image album page

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  • 1. The art and sociology of flower pressing and arranging in books/albums, that could be a model for the people (perhaps nuns?) doing it in Jerusalem - maybe a book or a paper published in journals.
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  • 2. Who could have brought the habit into Jerusalem, from where and when?
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  • 3. Any photographs, illustrations or articles demonstrating the designing of the flower pictures.
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Ami Zehavi, Tel Aviv, Israel

A Don't know if this little bit of background history would help Ami. Some of the earliest flower pressing images that I've seen are from the 17th century. Flower pressing has been an occupation for ladies of high rank and wealth for many centuries and for men and women who went in search of flowers from all over the world. Many times it was the only way to send back to the home country flowers and plant specimens that they discovered. The collection at Kew Gardens hold samples as do the Royal Horticultural Society.

VJH

 

This regular feature invites answers by email to members’ questions on an item of ephemera.

 

Ephemera - minor transient documents of every day life