Saturday, July 14, 2018

Botanizing #2: Floral Scrapbooks


Serratifolia is a Clematis vine

Shenandoah Valley Quilt by Esther (Ester) Blair Shaw Matthews (1776-1866)
Rockingham County, Virginia

Esther Matthews's 1858 quilt in the collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum is a remarkable example of a quilt inspired by the fashion for botanizing. She labeled each block with a floral identification.

Block labeled Star of the East
Although many of her blocks are classic applique
in stylized formats, others seem drawn from nature.

"Jacob's Ladder" probably refers to the plants on the sides, perhaps

Variegated Jacob's Ladder

One way to botanize was to keep a scrapbook of
pressed plants with identifications.

Rachel Van Dyke, a little younger than Esther, kept a diary in 1810 when she was 17. 
"As I was coming out of school Mr. G---handed me an acorn and told me it was something for me to botanize upon. 'Botanize upon an acorn....the man's a goose.' "

She soon discovered the hollow acorn contained a tiny poem.
'Well done...You are no Goose either who would have thought of such a contrivance.' "

I guess Mr. G was thought a goose at first because one cannot press an acorn into a scrapbook.

Herbarium with samples dated 1883

Rachel Littler Bodley (1831-1888) was a well-known botanist
photographed with the tools of her trade and an herbarium
on the floor.

The perfect gift for a young lady

Fiction in Godey's Lady's Book prescribed an herbarium for lonely "little Jemima, who, you must know, is a bit of a blue." A blue, a blue-stocking, was an intellectual.

Poet Emily Dickinson (a bit of a blue)  kept an herbarium when she was a school girl in Amherst, Massachusetts in the years 1839-1846. It's now at Harvard's Houghton Library, where they have scanned every page.

Anna Coates Shreve (1802-1897) seems to have transferred her scrapbook pages
to an applique quilt that is pictured in Hall & Kretsinger's book
Romance of the Patchwork Quilt

The Shelburne Museum has a quilt dated 1868 that owes more to
the look of an herbarium than to common applique layout.

The quilt was purchased from Florence Peto, who attributed it
to the Griswold family of Connecticut.

Block from Susan & Henry Underwood's sampler album
in the collection of the Smithsonian.

Reproduction quilts inspired by The Esther Matthews quilt are on display at the Virginia Quilt Museum through September 8, 2018.  Read more about Beyond the Valley curated by Doreen Johnson here:

 Rachel Van Dyke's diary has been published as Read My Heart: The Journal of Rachel Van Dyke, 1810-1811.

Tomorrow: more botanizing.


  1. My version of the Shenandoah Valley Botanical Garden quilt is in the exhibit in Virginia. It was a lot of fun stitching all those different flowers.

  2. I have a traditional and a wool on flannel version in the Virginia exhibit. We just learned that 15 were chosen to also be displayed at the Houston International Quilt Festival in November, and my traditional one will be in that exhibit.