Cahier confectionné

This find is so dated that the snow you see here is not from today, but from the spring. Perhaps that’s fitting, however, since the book I saved from these bags was itself quite old.

The book is pretty non-descript from the outside, but inside were flower arrangements dating back 150 years. As you might expect, some of the collections were in rough shape, especially the ones closer to the beginning & end. Many were still in pretty great condition, however, particularly the ones closer to the middle of the book (which I suppose were less likely to get bent up).

I took pictures of most of the pages, which you can see below. If you want to zoom in on the gallery images, click on the thumbnail and then find the “view full-size” link on the bottom right of the slideshow. If you don’t like flowers, feel free to skip this post and come back next time.

Lets start with the first two pages. It seems that relatives of the creator, “tante” (aunt) Hortense Küss (b. 1841) wrote some relevant history on the inside cover and drew an abbreviated family tree on the opposite page. These additions look to have been added in 1974. I censored out the more recent information here for privacy reasons, but I figure the rest is ancient history and is fine to be shared.

If I were to guess I’d say that this cahier confectionné (which I think translates to scrapbook, or something along those lines) ended up in the hands of a niece, and in 1974 she decided (with the help of her kids) to write down what she knew about it since she was getting on in years herself. Since then it might have been inherited at least once, possibly twice, and one of those successors tossed it in the trash, for whatever reason.

To the arrangements. It’s clear that this book was pretty carefully put together. Most of the cuttings are dated (this one in particular is from 1868), and are often accompanied with a story or a description of the plants used. The first design is from 1863 (when the creator was 22) and the last is dated 1882. I haven’t made time to read all the descriptions, but the flowers were picked in France, and I’d say the picker was probably well-off. This is one of my favourites, from the middle of the book. The next few are in rougher shape, as you can see below.

It seems like these early ones were held in place with little bits of tape, and maybe glue. The scrapbooker started using thread to hold the arrangements together after this point, which you can see on the opposite sides of the designs. It must have taken a lot of effort, but it does look better (and could also maybe explain why these arrangements stood the test of time a bit better than the earlier ones).

Here’s a couple examples of the threading used to keep the arrangements together (to the left). As you can see the thread isn’t very noticeable, and probably allows for more complicated designs than glue or tape would.

I didn’t share these pictures for so long in part because the arrangements don’t look quite as nice as they do in real life, but in the end the photos are still pretty good. I have perfectionist tendencies, but most of time it just leads to stress and procrastination.

So, I still have this book, and don’t really know what to do with it. I’d like to sell it to someone who cares for it, but I don’t know what this kind of thing is worth, and the idea of shipping it somewhere is stressful given how fragile it is (though I might be overthinking this as well). Also, since it wasn’t made locally it’s not of particular interest to local collectors or organizations. If you’ve sold something like this before, or have ideas about what I should do with it, please let me know in the comments!

Otherwise, I think there’s some interesting info in the stories next to the arrangements. I didn’t get to talking about those, in part because they’re written in French (and also the handwriting is a bit difficult), but if someone cares to share some intriguing tidbits please do so below! Most of them are reasonably legible if you zoom in.

As for the spot that produced it, I haven’t seen much there since. The house is for sale, and I pass by every trash day just in case more is cleared out.


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9 thoughts on “Cahier confectionné”

  1. If inclined, go to forums and post it with the last name. You might find descendants who would be thrilled to have this. It seems a shame that someone tossed it away.

  2. It’s such a shame that the book was exposed to the elements. It’s quite a treasure, and might have been museum-quality otherwise. Very sad …but I’m very happy you saved what you could. I hope someone approaches you that will offer to take it and treasure it, as it deserves.

  3. This find is absolutely amazing! So much work and passion for gardening (and history) went into this. So sad that it ended up being tossed but it did survive for 150 years!! I would imagine many people saw it and was probably cherished by some young girls. I’m sure you can sell it Martin, hopefully someone will want it and try to preserve it. Good luck and let us know what happened with it.

  4. You might consider donating it to a local museum, art gallery, or even The Ontario or Quebec Horticultural societies.

  5. Dear Martin,
    These kinds of collections are very valuable to the right people…
    The Museum in the article continues to expand their collection. If you were to contact Marc Jeanson, the director of the world’s largest and oldest herbarium, the Jardin des Plantes at France’s Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, he may have some suggestions.

  6. Gustave Küss-June 06, 1856
    Strasbourg, 67000, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, FRANCE ,
    son of Émile Küss
    Birth: February 01, 1815 Strasbourg, 67000, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, FRANCE
    Death: March 01, 1871 Bordeaux, 33063, Gironde, Aquitaine, FRANCE – He is on wikepedia, ——-The family tree – at least one family tree is on Geni – I believe that a Pierre Henri René Quénée is the site manager – I am hoping that these are the right people and I have not made mistakes – TO NOTE – All this information is open to the public on Geni,I sincerely do not wish to disclose any private information.
    It is a truly wonderful find, telling many stories and histories –

  7. Sixth-to-last photo: The names are mainly towns in north-eastern France or Western Germany: Bar-le-Duc, Eberstein, Ste-Odile, Appenweier. (Chapell Russe and Ste-Helene are a bit of a mystery to me – couldn’t find those in that region.) The rest reads: Vacation from 5 August to 9 October 1872. Arranged at Pouzin (another French town, south of Lyon) with Louise and Helene, on a Sunday of torrential rains. 24 November 1872.

  8. What an amazing time capsule this is. I hope you can figure out a way to get it into the hands of someone who will appreciate it (and appreciate your saving it)!

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