IA Book of the Week: Wild Flowers of Nova Scotia

Each week the Fisher Library highlights an item from one of its many digitized collections available to all on the Internet Archive. This week, Rachael takes a look at a book from our Biodiversity Collection.

This week we are examining a rather unique book. “Wild Flowers of Nova Scotia” by Maria Morris. The book was published in 1840 in Halifax “under the patronage of His Excellency Lieut.-Gen Sir C. Campbell, K.C.B., Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.” Another author is also credited on the title page. Following the dedication made by the Lieutenant Governor the text reads: “Executed from Nature of the full size of the Flowers, accompanied by information on the History, Properties, &c, of the subjects. By Titus Smith.” Judging by this statement, Smith provided the scientific information about the flowers featured in the book, while Maria made the illustrations. At the bottom of each plate with the illustration is Maria’s signature stating: “drawn from nature.”

There is no table of contents or introduction to this book. The first page lists three plates, each containing a description of the flower featured on the plate, its Latin name, and it’s common name. The first plate is for the May Flower. “This interesting little flower, so dear to every Nova Scotian, is now the adopted emblem of her patriotic institution. Rich in perfume, somewhat like that of the Apple Blossom, the May Flower opens before the frost is all out of the ground, varying with the seasons from the latter end of March to the first of May – grows in a dry turfy soil, both in woods and among small healthy shrubs.” Most plate descriptions are fairly similar to each other. They all describe where the plant is found, its characteristics, and physical description.

One of the more unique aspects of this book is that there is very little text. Each new section of the book begins with a page listing three plates that will follow, along with their relevant information. There are 12 leaves of plates in total, each one featuring a stunning hand-coloured lithograph. There is no other text on the page besides the flower’s name and Maria’s signature.

“Wild Flowers of Nova Scotia” is an excellent example of the diversity of books. It demonstrates that a book does not need much text to provide its reader with ample information about a subject. 

-Rachael Fraser, TALint student