Valentine’s Day Card, c. 1800s; cut paper and chromolithograph. Private collection. As reproduced in Flower

This emotive Victorian card makes a loving Valentine’s Day gift

Among its beautiful floral imagery our book Flower peels back the touching origins of this international day for lovers

Give them a copy of our book Flower this Valentine’s Day and your floral tribute will flourish in their hearts for years. This beautifully illustrated book, subtitled Exploring the World in Bloom, really does deliver a wealth of colour, created by fine artists, filmmakers, photographers, commercial illustrators, botanists and other flowery visionaries, from across the world.

It’s a wonderful gift for 14 February, because a great many images featured in it employ flowers to tell such beautiful love stories. And one entry tells the tale of the day itself.

The entry beside a budding, British Valentine’s card from the 19th century says it all. “Delicately crafted roses, lilies, narcissi, lilacs, morning glories and other flowers woven into lush green foliage encircle a love poem – and not just any poem, but a valentine,” reads the text in Flower. “The annual tradition has its origins in the ancient Roman Lupercalia festival, celebrated in mid-February.

“In the fifth century, the Catholic Pope effectively replaced the ‘pagan’ holiday, declaring the 14th of February as St Valentine’s Day. Romantic notions were not associated with the holiday until the late fourteenth century with  Chaucer’s mention in The Canterbury Tales of birds choosing their mates on that day.


Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom
Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom


“In the 1820s, Londoners alone sent more than 200,000 valentines every February. The more decorative the card, the more expensive – and thus the more desirable the valentine. Recipients could expect a fanciful paper construction heavily detailed with costly effects such as embossing, colour printing and hand-dyed elements. These were flanked with further flourishes, such as romantic poetry, decorative lace and foiling, as well as coloured paper bouquets, cherubs and even real bird’s feathers. The popularity of sending valentines increased through the century, and by the time the standardized penny post arrived in the 1840s, around 400,000 cards were sent each year. Although the cards were often sent anonymously, they also became an element of formal Victorian courtship. The custom was tied with the giving of flowers, as it remains to this day: more than 200 million red roses are produced for the holiday each year.” 

Care to spare the roses this year, and give a gift that will last rather longer? Then order a copy of Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom for your loved one from our store.