You’re never too old for a good colouring book. That’s as true with today’s adult colouring book craze as it was in the 18th century. The historical evidence? A 257-year-old colouring book intended for adults that was recently found in the library collection of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis by botanist Amy Pool.
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.”
The Florist pages feature drawings of sixty plants and flowers along with instructions for “colouring according to nature.”
So how did a book this old manage to withstand the test of time. Perhaps light use of the book and the fact that it was never coloured helped preserve it after all these years.
Amy Pool came across the book while she was doing some light reading into “The History of Botanical Illustration”. For her the book holds a lot of cultural merit.
While showing the book, Pool pointed to scribbles apparently made by a child, plus a few random words written down, such as “leaf.” Stains show where plants were pressed between the book’s pages.
The owner at one point may have been “Albert,” which is beautifully written on an early page. An imitation leather cover was added much later when some conservation work was done.
Beyond that, the library doesn’t know how it acquired the book as many rare books have been donated. And now, the printed book might live forever, because it’s been digitised. You can download The Florist at botanicus.org and colour in the pages as you please.