It was the Age of Etiquette, and if you wanted to climb the social ladder of nineteenth century society, you needed to know all the rules. Follow the social codes without error, and you might be judged well-bred. Fail, and you might not be invited to the next dinner party.

One of the most exhaustive lists of etiquette instructions was published in Collier’s Cyclopedia of Social and Commercial Information. With separate rules for men and women, it expressed (and enforced) nineteenth century gender roles, as well as laying out the qualifications for becoming a proper “lady” or “gentleman.” It also assigned symbolic meaning to each bloom in a bouquet, allowing a man to communicate his sentiments and intentions simply by handing flowers to a lady. Woe betide the suitor who included the wrong varieties in such an offering!

Collier’s etiquette guide and floral dictionary are reproduced here in their original illustrated format, lavishly embellished with Victorian motifs. It’s a beautiful memento of times past, and the perfect gift for any history enthusiast.