Universitätsbibliothek HeidelbergUniversitätsbibliothek Heidelberg
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fresh discoveries of new materials. Great and successful
attempts have been made to exhibit the variety of useful and
ornamental woods now selected for building and cabinet-
making; and no one can glance at the beautiful collections
exhibited in the south-western galleries without perceiving
that, however exquisite the furniture so profusely displayed on
the ground-floor may be, there are ample resources remaining
unemployed that will render such manufactures, sooner or later,
yet more admirable than they now are. The numerous pro-
posed devices for seasoning and preparing woods are all so far
successful that we may look forward to the employment in
furniture-work of many kinds of curious grain and colour at
present seldom, and not always successfully, employed. Much
of the furniture in the Exhibition, upon which infinite labour
and marvellous skill have been bestowed for the production of
sculpturesque effects, is constructed of woods chosen without
regard to the character of the carver's design, which
consequently materially suffers. A more minute knowledge
of the colour, qualities and capabilities of ornamental timber,
would prevent such mistakes.

The indirect influence of the vegetable world upon the Arts
and Manufactures, must not be passed over without a remark.
The share that it has had in giving origin to the beauty and
variety of furniture, ornaments, and fabrics, displayed under
so many and admirable forms in the Great Exhibition, is too
important not to be strongly insisted upon here. Our silks
and cottons, our muslins and poplins, our shawls and damasks,
our sideboards and cabinets, our porcelain and glass, would
make a comparatively graceless array, were the infinite variety
of design and colour suggested by flowers and fruits, leaves
and stems, herbs and trees, taken away. Yet, when these
representations are scanned by a botanist, he is apt to regard
them with a dissatisfied eye, not because they do not fulfil the
requirements of scientific accuracy—that would be absurd to
exact—but on account of the ignorance they too often make
manifest of the riches suited to his purpose lying almost
within the designer's grasp, had he known where and why to
seek for them. A small amount of botanical study would
prove a profitable capital to the ornamental draughtsman.
Science would teach him how every stem is adapted for its
own peculiar style of foliage, and how an incongruous mixture
of leaves, fruits, and flowers, cannot give the pleasure to the
eye that, even when it is uninstructed, it so rapidly and
delightfully derives from the contemplation of combinations,
the elements of Avhich are truthful. The leaf of a mono-
cotyledonous plant attached to the flower of a dicotyledon
strikes the spectator who has no knowledge of botanical
science as unnatural, for the eye learns, and compares, and
recollects, even when the understanding is obscure and cloudy.
To the botanist, who sees in all the structures and stages of
vegetable organisms heaven-devised beauty, and the mani-
festations of Divine foresight and love, such mistakes
become still more offensive. The mere literal copying
of nature is not what is demanded; that would be
contrary to nature's own plan. The value to a designer of a
scientific comprehension of his models, is the insight it gives
him into the possible variations of the original, and the in-
exhaustible sources of grace and beauty, whence so much
that is new, and yet consistent, may be derived, towards the
following out of Nature's own idea.

All substances in which vegetable forms have been imitated,
whether by modelling, carving, casting, printing, painting, or
inlaying, are not equally well adapted for representations of
all kinds of ornamental plants. Leaves with broad and
coriaceous lobes, borne on stout and stiff-jointed peduncles,
suit castings in bronze and iron, or carvings in low relief
on wood, but delicate and pinnated foliage, or slender fern-
fronds requiring high or complete relief, and intended to
stand out light and prominent, require hand-workmanship in
the more precious metals, and can neither be carved nor
cut with natural effect.

Perhaps a portion of the unpleasant effect produced by
such experiments, depends upon the extreme difficulty of imi-
tating, very perfectly, the minute features of the parts of
plants. Eor, in the exquisite metal castings of bramble and
other leaves, done from the plants themselves with a perfec-

tion so extraordinary that, even under the lens, the minutest
hairs and finest venations of their surface are seen proiect-
ing, executed by some novel process, invented by Captain
Ibbetson, and placed in the Exhibition along with the
electrotype plants to which we have already alluded, the
effect to the eye is exceedingly pleasing. These castings
suggest the probability of an extensive use of living
plants, well selected, with reference to their capabilities
for decorative effects, depending entirely on form and surface
becoming a new and delightful sort of furniture orna^
ment. Thus, climbers remarkable for elegance of foliage,
might be twined round the frames of mirrors, and along
the cornices of rooms, the flowers and leaves of real plants
becoming perpetuated in metal, never more to droop or
wither. _ The choicest leaves might be converted, with little
labour, into silver and golden dishes surpassing the craft of
the cunningest goldsmith, and our dessert might be spread
tinder the shadow of metallic fruits and flowers as true to nature
as if the transforming touch of Midas had collected them.

One word more, for the plant's own sake, before concluding.
When we rest on the velvety grass, under the shadow of
some spreading tree, whose gnarled and sturdy trunk was
stout and strong whilst our great-great-grandfathers were
little boys; when we idly play with the painted and sweet-
scented blossom of some summer flower that we have plucked
in the sunny meadow, pulling sepal from sepal, and petal from
petal, shaking the pollen from the stamens, and cutting open
the pulpy germen to note the nascent ovules, let us not
merely bless the tree for its shadow, or the flower for its
curious beauty, but look upon them affectionately as living
beings whom the one great Creator has placed in the same
fair world with ourselves, to pass, even as we do, their lives
freely and yet in continual accordance with His allwise
designs ; each leaf, each petal, each stamen, each pistil,
playing its separate part in the vegetable commonwealth to
which it belongs ; some industrious and perpetually striving
for the good of the whole, some seeming to lead a fleeting
existence of brilliant display—the leaves provident for the
coming day, the flowers provident for the next generation;
all working, not merely for themselves alone, but forming
wood, and fibres, and nutritious food for man, a being of whom
in their passive undreaming life they take no note and have
no knowledge. There is a deep lesson and politic meaning
contained in the scientific idea of a plant—a lesson and a
meaning not dissimilar from those that constitute the true
moral of the Great Exhibition.