In medieval Latin a florilegium (plural florilegia) was a compilation of excerpts from other writings. The word is from the Latin flos (flower) and legere (to gather): literally a gathering of flowers, or collection of fine extracts from the body of a larger work. It was adapted from the Greek anthologia () "anthology", with the same etymological meaning.
Medieval florilegia were systematic collections of extracts taken mainly from the writings of the Church Fathers from early Christian authors, also pagan philosophers such as Aristotle, and sometimes classical writings. A prime example is the Manipulus florum of Thomas of Ireland, which was completed at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The purpose was to take passages that illustrated certain topics, doctrines or themes. After the medieval period, the term was extended to apply to any miscellany or compilation of literary or scientific character.
The term florilegia also applied literally to a treatise on flowers or medieval books that are dedicated to ornamental rather than the medicinal or utilitarian plants covered by herbals. The emergence of botanical illustration as a genre of art dates back to the 15th century, when herbals (books describing the culinary and medicinal uses of plants) were printed containing illustrations of flowers. As printing techniques advanced, and new plants came to Europe from Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century, wealthy individuals and botanic gardens commissioned artists to record the beauty of these exotics in Florilegia.Florilegia flourished in the 17th century when they were created to portray rare and exotic plants from far afield. Modern florilegia seek to record collections of plants, often now endangered, from within a particular garden or place. Florilegia are among the most lavish and expensive books to produce because of all the work required to produce them.
The word applies especially to: