256-year-old coloring book found at botanical garden
Coloring books for adults all the rage, but apparently, they were popular as far back as the 18th Century.
A 256-year-old coloring book has been found in the library of the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.
Its pages feature drawings of 60 plants and flowers, along with instructions for “painting according to nature.”
The book, titled “The Florist,” was printed around 1760 by Robert Sayer. The title page points out the pages are “intended for the use and amusement of Gentlemen and Ladies.”
Botanist Amy Pool was doing research when she first came across mention of the book. She later learned the garden had a copy of the book in their rare book collection.
“Our library catalogue listed it with the full title: ‘The florist: containing sixty plates of the most beautiful flowers … to which is added an accurate description of their colours with instructions for drawing and painting.’ I thought, ‘Huh, that’s a coloring book! I need to see this thing!'” she told CNN.
The book was mass produced, but fewer than 10 known copies remain, said Markeya Thomas, the spokeswoman for the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
“It’s a neat little book. It’s kind of fun to think about coloring being a popular past time for adults in the 18th century and again today, so it’s of some culture significance,” said Pool.
The Garden’s copy of “The Florist” has not been colored, and has been fully restored to preserve its pages.
How the library came to own the book is still a mystery. Its pages were used to press plants — evident by the residual images on blank pages — and the name Albert is written on the back of the title page.
“I also like to think about this copy’s own personal history: the carefully scripted name, the pressed plant stains, the scribbles of a small child … all are parts of its unique story,” Pool said.
While there are no current plans to display the book to the public, its pages have been scanned and an online version is viewable here.