The Rosarian Library

A collection of books and other resources

dedicated to the rose


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.

Of course I could not aspire to the dizzy heights of the numerous and beautiful artefacts gathered together by Jules Gravereaux at the end of the twentieth century at La Roseraie de l'Hay near Paris but perhaps I could work towards the more compact and personal "House of Roses" that was lovingly collected by Jean Gordon in the 1960's in the small town of Augustine in Florida. These two museums and the recently opened Rose Museum in Beijing are the only permanent 'monuments' to the rose of which I am aware. Please tell me if you know of others.

Illustration taken from a magazine 'L'illustration' (1907) found in the depths of France. The article is entitled 'Le Paradis Des Roses' and tells the story of the gardens at Roseraie de l'Hay.

The Roses in the gardens of La Roseraie de l'Hay must be coming into full bloom at this time and looking beautiful. It was the ambition of Jules Gravereaux, on his retirement from the Bon Marche department store to indulge his passion for roses. In 1892 he bought the property at l'Hay and began his magnificent collection of roses by contacting collectors at the botanical gardens all over the world. As his collection outgrew its allotted space a landscape architect, Edouard Andre was commissioned to design a special rose garden. As well as being able to boast a vast collection of roses Jules Gravereaux also wanted to display them in as many ways as possible to maximum effect. With his variety of arches, pergolas, tunnels and trellises he succeeded and achieved one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world.

A drawing showing some of the structures.

By 1900 M.Gravereaux had amassed approximately 3,000 different roses with this number growing to 8,000 in 1906. 500 of these were species roses which he called his 'Collection Botanique'. The varieties i.e. the cultivated roses were his 'Collection Horticole'. I am lucky to have in my library a Catalogue entitled Roseraie de l'Hay and dated 1900 listing the 3,000 species and varieties he had collected by this time. This little Catalogue also has many black and white photographs of the gardens showing the beautiful structures many of which still exist today.

A page from the Catalogue.

As the garden grew so did his collection of rose artefacts. His house as well as his garden was full of roses asa well as images of roses. He had an office and laboratory housed in a building in the centre of the rose garden where he also kept an ever increasing collection of books, drawings, paintings, scultures, textiles, pottery and porcelain, stamps and coins. How tremendous it must have been to see this collection in its day but sadly it is no longer as the majority was stolen in 1980. Fortunately there survives a list 'La Rose Dans Les Sciences Dans Les Lettres Et Dans Les Arts' (1906) which catalogues the amazing collection. I have to satisfy myself with a reprint; an original must be extremely rare.

The Rose Museum at Roseraie de l'Hay.

Jean Gordon's Museum in St Augustine, on the other hand, has been reopened I understand. Jean, author and rose historian, founded the "House of Roses" in 1956 and ran it from her home until 1966. It was only after her second marriage and widowhood that she began to write about rosesand to collect a vast array of rose memorabilia. She wrote several books dedicated to the rose including 'Immortal Roses' (1959) where I read about the existence of her rose museum, 'Pageant of the Rose' (1953) and 'The art of Cooking with Roses' (1968).

Inside the Museum at Roseraie de l'Hay (taken from an old postcard in my collection.

"To mention a few of the displays there are: stamps incorporating a rose design from many nations, English coins showing the Tudor Rose, desert or rock roses, a gold metal rose from France and a spray of wrought iron roses from Germany, and antique rose-shaped butter molds. In addition, there are six complete exhibits featuring the Rose in Symbolism, Religion, the Orient, England, France and America. Wall panels display pictures that show the use of the rose in medicine, art, music; the fascinating genealogy of the 'Queen Elizabeth' rose, and rose fossils estimated to be 35 million years old."

Taken from 'Immortal Roses' by Jean Gordon.

Jean Gordon's Rose books are in The Rosarian Library and I gain inspiration from them regularly. There must be other museums like hers that have been in existence or continue to be in existence now. Please tell me about them.

I know little about the Rose Museum in Bejing apart from it was completed in 2016 and opened on the day of the World Federation of Rose Societies Convention held in Beijing. It is huge covering an area of 30,000 square metres and is made from stainless steel complete with perforated rose designs. A number of displays are dedicated to the history of the rose and rose breeding. Although I am piqued that it is heralded as the world's first rose museum; I feel that accolade should go to Jules Gravereaux and his wonderful collection, I would very much like to make a visit!

Whether I will open my own museum or not I am not sure; watch this space. . . . .

Also watch out for the July issue of 'Gardens Illustrated'!

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.

When writing my review of C19th literature I left out the publication by John Harkness 'Practical Rose Growing' (1889) thinking at the time it was a pamphlet rather than a published book. In my defence Mrs H.R.Darlington in her comprehensive review of 'Rose Literature of the Past Fifty Years' written for the 1926 Rose Annual (National Rose Society) refers to it as a "useful pamphlet on the cultivation of the Rose for exhibition and decorative purposes". Theo Mayer in his article 'Victorian Rose Literature' printed in the 1970 Rose Annual does not mention the work at all.

Looking a little further Werger and Burton in their 'Roses. A Bibliography of Botanical, Horticultural, and other works related to the Genus Rosa' (1972) list only the second edition of 1898 and describe the work as having 68 pages with illustrations. Stock in his 'Rose Books. A Bibliography of books and important articles in journals on the genus Rosa, in English, French, German and Latin, 1550-1975' published in 1984 goes a little further by including both editions together with their printers:

1st ed. 1889 Armitage and Ibbetson, Bradford 1889

2nd ed. 1898 J.H. Blackett, Bedale 1898

None of this is conclusive, however, as to whether this is a published book or a printed pamphlet as it must be remembered that in Victorian times and earlier the printer was often also the publisher.

The work is not mentioned in the bibliographies of Vergara or Thory.

A suggestion that it may be a 'book' came from Amazon where it is listed but currently unavailable. It is also currently unavailable from ABE Books. I went to one of my favourite searching grounds and where I should have gone in the first place, the catalogue of The Lindley Library only to find that it was not listed there. Finally I went to the catalogue of The British Library where it was listed as a 'book' under the title 'Practical Rose Growing: a guide for amateurs etc' (1889).

That is a good lesson learned - go to the largest library in the country first but I did enjoy the journey and I needed to have a few excuses for leaving out a strategic work! I have not seen the book, cannot find it anywhere other than The British Library and the only description of the text I can find is that given by Mrs Darlington who says John Harkness gives very careful instructions on the thorough making of the soil for Rose beds and

"His chapter on Developing Exhibition Roses is interesting in that it strongly advocates and minutely describes the art of 'dressing' exhibition Roses. The quotations at the headings of the chapters are well chosen and suggest a knowledge of Milton not possessed by all writers of the Rose".

I am almost convinced that this work is a published book, unless you the reader, know otherwise, so my apologies to John Harkness.

So on to Mary Lawrance/Lawrence and I must say from the start of this discussion that there are copies of her book 'A Collection of Roses from Nature' (1796-1799) in both The British Library and The Lindley Library and they list her as Mary Lawrance. So why the confusion? Why do some authors write of Lawrance and others of Lawrence? Rather than follow the line of my research as I did with Mr Harkness I will cut straight to the chase so to speak!

According to Rondeau and Verdegem in their massive and striking book 'The Quest for the Black Rose' (2006) Mary Lawrence Kearse, better known as Miss Lawrence, a botanical artist and much acclaimed teacher, exhibited at The Royal Academy between 1794 and 1830. They suggest in their footnotes on P. 32

"A certain confusion exists as to the spelling of the name, 'Lawrance' being the spelling of the first edition. But in later editions it is corrected to 'Lawrence'. Many modern authors still use the spelling from the first edition."

Whether they mean here the first of the 30 parts issued or the first of the groups of the parts dated 1796, 1797, 1798 and 1799 I am not sure but I am unaware of any further editions of the original whole text being printed. I have a contact in The Linley Library who is very helpful with research matters but I know that their rare books are not available currently due to refurbishment but I will check with her at a later date. Perhaps you, the reader, may be able to help!

The correction is supported by Stock in his bibliography who writes that Lawrance is corrected to Lawrence in Errata to Vol. 111 of 'Les Roses' 1824. It is originally spelt as Lawrance in the bibliography written by Thory at the end of Vol. 1 (1818). I have checked this out as I have a facsimile of the bibliography entitled 'Bibliotheca Botanica Rosarum' and have consulted the entry. I have also checked the Errata through this website:

Stock continues by referring to various authors and how they have spelt the name. When researching it seems pretty even to me but it would be good to know one way or another. I need to apologise anyway as I have spelt her name both ways in research I have done. Perhaps I will currently follow the lead of The British Library or spell it both ways 'Lawrance/Lawrence'!

I am happier now that I have 'aired' these issues.

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

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jan 3 2018 03:51PM

'The Most Comprehensive Rose Library in the World'. I wonder whether this would still be true today. This description by the Royal National Rose Society (RNRS) of their library was written regularly in their publications. This library has now been incorporated into The Rosarian Library so I am wondering whether we can still boast the world ranking. I have no reason to believe that the RNRS library lost some of its books; it is more a matter of whether other libraries have overtaken The Rosarian Library in the number and range of texts.

Annuals (1907 - 1984?) produced by the society came in a range of colours over the years.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Sep 21 2017 01:54PM

Of the thirty-one books dedicated solely to the Rose written in Britain during the C19th the most popular, undoubtedly, was 'A Book about Roses' by the clergyman Samuel Reynolds Hole. Written in 1869 it has since had a miraculous history of new editions, impressions and reprints. Between 1869 and 1894 there were fourteen editions, some only a matter of months apart. In 'The Letters of Dean Hole' (1907 P. 141) we learn that " . . .the eleventh edition of my little Book was sold in 6 months - 3000 copies."

'A Book about Roses' First Edition 1869. (Note the green cloth and gold rose)

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jul 18 2017 09:57AM

Is this the total number of book titles, solely about roses and printed in the English language that are sitting on our library shelves waiting to be read? I am sure there are one or two still in hiding but hopefully the majority are now discovered. (I said this a month or so ago when I listed 760 but they keep appearing when least expected!) This list does not include the many editions of the same book nor does it include all the annual publications by the various rose societies. I have included only one each of these with the date range of publication.

One of the oldest 'The Rose Amateurs's Guide' (1840) Thomas Rivers and one of the newest books in the library.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Jun 6 2017 11:20AM

I am reminded of this incredible Victorian artist (1836-1904) every day as Fantin Latour, the rose is blooming beautifully in my garden now at the beginning of June. I planted this old Centifolia rose not only because all the Centifolias are stunning and fragrant but because I so admire the artist and his paintings of roses. I do not know who named the rose but it is a fitting tribute to this great man.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Apr 4 2017 01:19PM

I have bought a couple of things on line recently that haven't quite materialised into what I thought they were going to be! The first was miniature roses which I will tell you about in another blog - I am beginning to think the term 'miniature rose' is an oxymoron!

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Mar 14 2017 03:06PM

My rosy fabric collection continues to grow even though the sewing seems to have declined! I still occasionally find a length of fabric that is irresistible and often it will prove to be from the Sanderson range. How many rose fabrics they have printed since their birth in 1860 I have no idea but I intend to find out.

By Dr Elizabeth Perks, Feb 21 2017 01:52PM

You know how one thing leads to another . . . . . well, last week the auction site The Saleroom contacted me because they knew of a painting of roses that was coming up for auction. They do this because I am an avid collector of rose paintings and rose books so when they are notified of either in a sale they send me an email alert. A super facility - you should try it.

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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. . . .. . . .