Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Flowers of the Holy Land

The theme for Sepia Saturday this week is photos found in old books. Well, I can't quite match that theme but I do have an object found in an old book.

My father-in-law has a book with the front and back covers made of wood with the title Jerusalem inscribed on the front. The frontis page provides the details - it is a book of flowers of the Holy Land - and there is a handwritten note that the covers are made of olive wood.

Frontis page
The surprising thing is that the flowers are real. They are pressed plants that still, 100 years later, retain their colour. There are about fourteen pages in all.

Flowers from Bethlehem
Flowers from Mount Zion
There are two cards inside the book. The first one tells us the provenance of the book. It was brought from Jerusalem by William Pook and presented to Mr John Gordon M.L.A. (Member of the Legislative Assembly) in August 1914. John Gordon (1858-1937) was a storekeeper and grazier at Nagambie and Euroa in north-eastern Victoria. He was a local councillor for twenty years (1896-1926) also a member of Victoria's Legislative Assembly from 1911-1927, including a term as Minister of Agriculture and Water Supply. 

John Gordon was a brother of my husband's direct ancestor, Christina Gordon, who married Daniel McKernan. In 1941 another note was added to the card. It's signed 'CG'. This is Catherine (Kate) Gordon. She was a sister of Christina and John. She never married, and lived with her brother John who also never married. She supported him in his very busy public life. A year before she died Kate gave the flower book to her sister Christina's son-in-law, William Phelan, with the added stipulation that it be then given to William's daughter, Ina Phelan and then her brother Gibson Phelan. 

I'm not sure that Ina and Gibson ever received the book because it is now in the care of Neil who is the son of William Phelan's other son, Roy. Ina never married and Gibson married but never had children.

Card inside the book of pressed flowers.
The second card in the book is an invitation. When the Duke and Duchess of York visited Melbourne in 1927 John Gordon received an invitation to the Parliamentary Reception to be held at Parliament House on the afternoon of the 22nd April 1927. John didn't have a 'lady wife' so maybe he took his sister, Kate, to the reception.

Invitation card, found inside the book of pressed flowers.
On Trove I searched the newspaper articles of the day and found quite a few. The Argus, Melbourne's main paper, wrote about the royal visit in great detail (the poor royals must have been exhausted but they still found the energy to dance at the ball that night) but the Sydney Morning Herald provided me with a summary that I could fit comfortably in this blog.

Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Apr 1927
You could delve into the other 'found' treasures over at Sepia Saturday.


  1. What an impressive collection of goodies in this book!

  2. What an unusual book with covers of wood & pages of real pressed flowers instead of paintings. And the things found inside the book are certainly an interesting lot. A bit of a mystery how the book ended up where it did, I suppose. But sometimes things simply can't work out the way one wishes for some reason. At least it's still in the family.

    1. Yes, and these days Australian Customs probably wouldn't allow it to be brought into the country, or it would be put into quarantine and dosed with chemicals to get rid of possible plant diseases.

  3. I should say that at this stage I have no idea who William Pook was. He wasn't a relative so maybe a friend or constituent.

  4. Such a wonderful treasure, as a botanist I appreciate its uniqueness. It's history is also interesting.

    1. I agree about the botany. There may be some indigenous plants in there that are now under threat. I probably should try to get them identified but the localities are so vague it's probably not worth the effort.

  5. A beautiful and unique book. The wood on the cover does indeed look like olive wood. (I'm a woodturner and furniture maker as well as bloger)

  6. The flowers are so beautifully displayed, what a treasure to have inherited.

  7. What an amazing book, thank you for sharing this.

  8. The pressed flowers in this herbarium look like they have been put there yesterday. Absolutely beautiful! And speaking of Customs, I once inadvertently tried to get an apple through US Customs at JFK. I got the apple on board our aircraft. I was detained for half an hour by agricultural inspector...

  9. A beautiful book by any standards and so different, with its covers of olive wood. Those flowers looks so fresh too.

  10. I am amazed that the flowers have survived so long. A truly wonderful book to have,

  11. What A Beautiful,Perfect & Priceless Possession.


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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