The Rosarian Library

A collection of books and other resources

dedicated to the rose


By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jul 1 2019 11:41AM

How I would love to be transported back in time to find myself in the centre of the medieval fair town of Provins, not in medieval times but in the 16th century. I would be surrounded by bustling businesses trading in scented sachets, candied rose petals, medicines and balms and other products made from the flowers grown in the surrounding acres of rose fields. The main street of Provins was dominated totally by the men and women who traded in rose products.

The rose used was Rosa gallica 'officinalis', a highly aromatic rose that had been appreciated for its scent and beauty since Roman times and is still recognised by those who continue to grow it for its fragrant and colour retention qualities even after the petals have dried. It is still grown throughout Europe where it is an important item of commerce in the pharmaceutical, perfume, liquor and soap industries.

Rosa gallica 'officinalis'

Though we seldom consider the use of roses in modern medicine, this species does contain tannin, oils, sugar, wax, cyanin and quercetin. As a result it has astringent, bactericidal, bile-removing, and anti-inflammatory properties which were thought to ease headaches, control vomiting, help dysentery and fever, heal wounds and act as a restorative, a tonic for the liver and as a mild laxative. Cures for many ailments but which I understand are grounded in scientific fact.

The double form of Rosa gallica 'officinalis' is more popular for commercial use.

From this rose, which became known in France as the Provins Rose the people of Provins throughout the years have made a number of products including medicinal syrups, skin lotions, jams and sweets and sachets of dried petals. Through several centuries until the 19th century there were more apothecaries on the main street of Provins than any other type of shop. Outside each a rose was planted at the entrance. The druggists dispensed remedies that reportedly aided digestion, sore throats, skin rashes and eye maladies. Women believed that rose petals would reduce their wrinkles! The fresh petals were also strewn in abundance during religious celebrations. It is believed that when Marie Antoinette stayed in Provins she slept on a bed made entirely of roses.

Dried rose petals were used to make an array of scented sachets to combat

the offensive odours of everyday life.

Provins lies approximately 60 kilometres South West of Paris and is today a World Heritage Site enabling the preservation of the medieval buildings that were standing in the 12th and 13th centuries when it was a well-known trading centre of up to 80,000 people. It was at this time that legend suggests that Thibault 1V, the Count of Champagne, brought back from the Crusades in the Middle East a rose bush that was to become the ancestor of all the roses which have bloomed in and around Provins for centuries. This rose, Rosa gallica 'Officinalis' often called the Apothecary's Rose, has featured prominently in the trading prosperity of this now small town and is a significant part of its heritage.

A view of Provins today - a well preserved medieval town.

Provins has many visitors each year who are attracted by the medieval architecture and its commercial heritage. In addition, now there is a 3 hectare garden which features many beautiful roses. Rose jam is still made in Provins as well as honey perfumed with rose petals and rose candy but sadly there is not the bustling high street where all those wonderful rose products are sold!

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jun 9 2019 10:50AM

I didn't know what it meant until I added to the library postcard collection after a recent visit to a local antique shop and then decided to write this article. Deltiology, the study and collection of postcards. According to Wikipedia the world's third most popular hobby. Can you guess the first two? (Clue - they involve small items!) I didn't regard myself as a collector until I realised two albums full of small but beautiful rose art, mostly picked up inexpensively at antique fairs or in antique shops, probably meant just that. As with the rose books and paintings I can't help myself when I see a rose work of art.

A few of the postcards in the library - mostly paintings which are sadly not signed by the artist.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Apr 25 2019 01:47PM

Perhaps it is not surprising that many books about roses have been written by the nurserymen who cultivate roses for their livelihood. They are the people who have the knowledge to share with others. Can you imagine though what it must have been like in the 19th century drafting a book by hand? I find it difficult to imagine how these authors, and in some cases artists, were able to find the time and the inspiration to draft a knowledgeable tome, especially after they had been out in the elements all day propagating roses. In this beautiful book 'Beauties of the Rose' Henry Curtis, as well as writing the text, drew all the illustrations on stone so that they could be lithographed for this book, which has two volumes and thirty-eight hand coloured lithographic plates.

The Frontispiece from 'Beauties of the Rose' by Henry Curtis.

The library has two copies of 'Beauties of the Rose', in different bindings but whichever you saw you would know instinctively that within there were exciting treasures. Whether you chose the green and gold elegant binding with gold page edging or the plain green binding with marbled edging you would not be disappointed. The two books in the library are similar inside; a page of text followed by a tissue covered illustration. Comparable in format to the great works 'Roses or a Monograph of the Genus Rosa' (1805) by Henry C. Andrews and 'Rosarium Monographia' (1820) by John Lindley. Fortunately the text and illustrations have been protected well by the substantial bindings and the platesremain vibrant and clear.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 25 2019 10:50AM

As each and every rose book in the Rosarian Library is about roses you could be forgiven for thinking that one book is very much like another. A closer glance at the books, however, reveals that they are as different as the roses that grow in a rose garden.

A rose book with a unique cover illustrating a rose garden.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Feb 7 2019 02:17PM

At last my books and I have a new home! When I wrote my last blog/article in August last year I did not realise it would be six months before my next. It is great to be back 'at the drawing board' so to speak.

Part of the new library (note the rose tiles on the fireplace!).

The move fromone house and county to another has been a logistical challenge but one that seems to be working out well. At least the books do not seem to have suffered from a month or two of storage and during their sojourn they acquired one or two other companions as a result of their owner suffering from withdrawal symptoms!

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Aug 17 2018 12:36PM

Edme-Henry Jacotot could not have been more proud when the Societe d'Horticulture de la Cote d'Or proclaimed that the strong and beautiful Tea Rose that he had created had captured their exhibition's top prize. The large translucent blooms of rose, salmon and yellow mesmerized the eyes of the jury and the scent in the air thrilled their noses with a unique and powerful fragrance. There was no question that this new rose would be named 'Gloire de Dijon' in honour of the town where it was born.

'Gloire de Dijon' taken from 'The Amateur Gardener's ROSE BOOK' Hoffmann J. (1905)

The year was 1853 when this little known nurseryman from the rose growing area of Dijon in Burgundy, France ventured forth to exhibit the very first rose that he had bred himself. He did not know for sure who its parents were. He was pretty certain that the pollen came from a Bourbon Rose 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' but he only thought the receiving parent was 'Desprez a Fleur Jaune', a Noisette Rose, which gave his glorious new rose the characteristics of the climbing Noisettes. Although it was a climbing Tea Rose it would often be classified as a Noisette.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Aug 3 2018 10:19AM

Wow! Three articles about the library published in as many months. The Rosarian Library is reaching a wider public! I am thrilled as I know, for the rosarian, it is a great resource and for me personally it is rewarding to see the library grow and its many books providing information for people with an amazing range of projects.

The first article appeared in the February 2018 'Rose Society UK' Newsletter, the second in the Spring 2018 'Historic Roses Group Journal' and the third in the July issue of 'Gardens Illustrated' all of which I enjoy reading myself. I would like to thank the editors of these three publications for recognising that the theory behind the pratice is worthy of promotion and for including The Rosarian Library among their pages..

An organisation promoting the rose across the UK.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, May 29 2018 02:47PM

Not far from where I live, in a little market town, there is a shop/gallery for sale with plenty of living accommodation and a garden too. Regardless of financial issues am I courageous enough and do I have sufficient energy to open a long dreamed about museum?

A painting of Jules Gravereaux which was hung in his museum.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 26 2018 10:57AM

Two dilemmas have been niggling at me and I possibly have two apologies to make. The first to John Harkness (1857-1933) for omitting his work from my review of C19th Rose Literature and the second to Miss Mary Lawrance/Lawrence (Died 1831) for the misspelling of her name in my review and other research I have done.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jan 20 2018 04:52PM

I have had printed recently an article entitled 'Nineteenth Century British Rose Literature; a brief discourse on the 19th century literature, written in Britain, that is dedicated solely to the Rose.'

This is the first of a series of articles exploring the nature of 19th century Rose Literature. Further articles will include, through a study of the literature, The Growth in the Popularity of Roses, the Development of Rose Varieties and their method of Cultivation, the Rosarians and American and European Rose Literature.

Article Cover

Welcome to my blog


Welcome to my world of roses. How fortunate I am to be surrounded by the queen of flowers!


Over the years I have collected many ‘rosy’ souvenirs and am now surrounded by rosy pictures, china, fabrics and my beautiful books.


I hope you will wish to follow me on a rosy journey and contribute with your thoughts and ideas. I enjoy growing roses but I also appreciate the smell of a real rose potpourri, the glimpse of a painting of roses, the discovery of a different rose cup and saucer or piece of fabric or to see a wild rose nestling in the hedgerow.


I will share with you my rose stories and will endeavour to answer any queries you may have regarding this amazing flower.

Until then. . . .. . . .

newimage1 Click for full index of articles