Literary Calligraphy by Susan Loy

Americana Selections - "Specimen Days", Walt Whitman

Specimen Days

Prints are offset lithographic reproductions of Susan Loy’s original watercolor.

Image Size:   15-1/2” x 15-1/2”     Paper Size: 18” x 18-1/2”     Frame Size: 23” x 23”

“This has been and is yet a great season for wild flowers; oceans of them line the roads through the woods, border the edges of the water-runlets, grow along the old fences, and are scatter’d in profusion over the fields. All is peace here… Here amid this wild, free scene, how healthy, how joyous, how clean and vigorous and sweet!” Walt Whitman, Specimen Days

Susan Loy pays homage to Walt Whitman and his days spent in the rural countryside while healing after the Civil War and recorded in his journal, Specimen Days & Collect. Whitman dedicates these “Specimen Days” to the birds, wildflowers, trees, herbs, reptiles, and insects that populate the countryside, and he recorded the various species of birds, trees, and perennial blossoms that he made acquaintance with in one season or another. Susan Loy combed through Whitman’s journals and selected twenty-six of these perennial blossoms, one for every letter of the alphabet, and meticulously illustrated them in a colorful wreath with a motif of orange trumpet-creeper and green juniper with blue berries; she lettered the common and botanical name of each plant and its meaning in the Victorian Language of Flowers. She also included species of bees, moths, and butterflies. A bird perches in each corner: Black-Cap Tit or Chickadee, upper right, Wood Thrush, lower right; Canada Goose, lower left, and Bush Sparrow, upper left. The central bouquet features giant white blossoms of the Great Laurel, Rhododendron maximum, and the delicate green pine needles and brown cones of Pinus Virginiana. The twenty-six botanical specimens include:

Apple Blossom, Malus coronaria: preference Blue Liverwort, Hepatica americana: trust
Coreopsis, C. lanceolata: cheerfulness
Dogwood, Cornus florida: durability
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis: zealousness
Flax, Linum lewisii: kind feelings
Geranium maculatum, wild geranium: confidence
Horsemint, Monarda didyma: sympathy
Ipomoea pandurata, wild potato vine: affection
Johnny-Jump-Up, Viola papilionacea: faith
King Fern, Osmunda spectabilis: dreams
Lobelia cardinalis, cardinal flower: distinction
Magnolia glauca, swamp magnolia: love of nature
Nymphaea odorata, water lily: purity of heart
Orchid, Orchis spectabilis: a belle
Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana: freedom
Quercus velutina, black oak: bravery
Rosa virginiana, wild rose: simplicity
Sunflower, Helianthus annus: lofty thoughts
Tulip-Tree, Lireodendron tulipifera: rural happiness
Umbelliferae, Snakeroot, Sanicula canadensis: health
Virgin’s Bower, Clematis virginiana: filial love
Xyris torta, yellow-eyed grass: utility
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium: cure
Zea Mays, Indian corn: abundance

All of these plants are mentioned in Whitman’s journal; for a more detailed listing of the specific plant references in Specimen Days & Collect, please visit Whitman's Specimen Details

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