One of the Great Orchid Books, A Massive Set with 192 Large Colored Plates


(London: H. Sotheran & Co.; St. Albans: F. Sander & Co., [1886-]1888-90; [1891-]1892-94). 545 x 406 mm. (21 1/2 x 16"). Lacking one text leaf. Two series in four volumes. FIRST EDITION.

Stately contemporary dark brown morocco, upper cover with elaborate gilt frame enclosing a gilt armorial device, raised bands, compartments lavishly gilt and with the name of a previous owner stamped in gilt at tail of spine, all edges gilt. WITH 192 CHROMOLITHOGRAPHED PLATES OF ORCHIDS (96 in each volume) by H. G. Moon, W. H. Fitch, and A. H. Loch, many finished by hand, with new tissue guards. Front pastedowns with the bookplate of Peter Dowding Prankerd. Sitwell, "Great Flower Books," p.135; Nissen 1722. See also: Swinson, "Frederick Sander: the Orchid King" (1970). A hint of shelfwear, but the bindings sound and quite lustrous. Occasional light scattered foxing internally (including a handful of plates), several plates with expert (virtually indistinguishable) repairs to small patches of color (where the tissue guards were sticking--a common problem with this work), but overall AN EXTREMELY APPEALING COPY of a work often found in very disagreeable shape.

Imposingly large and impressively illustrated, the present volumes reflect the collective efforts of one of the most successful nursery owners in England, a leading 19th century orchidologist, and a devoted landscape and botanical artist. German émigré Henry Sander (1847-1920) was the owner of a highly successful nursery located in St. Albans that catered, above all, to the orchid market. At the height of his business, Sander was the royal orchid grower to Queen Victoria, built over 60 greenhouses to house his orchid imports, and employed collectors in remote areas across the globe, including parts of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Madagascar, New Guinea, and Burma. Sitwell calls the present work "an important and authoritative work for orchid growers," while Swinson goes into further detail about the monumentality of the undertaking: "By modern standards the work was of monstrous size. . . . Where the orchid was concerned, Sander never spared himself, but even so, the care lavished on the Reichenbachia still provokes astonishment. Apart from the elegance of Moon's drawings, the technical standards would have been a tribute to any large printing house. The blocks were hand-made, out of wood; and the chromolithographs were produced by the use of as many as twenty inks. The cost to Sander was enormous, and it is said to have been well over £7,000 [about £850,000 today]. . . . It is no wonder that Sander often remarked in later years that the project almost ruined him." Although Sander is considered the "author" here, most of the descriptions for this work were provided by the eponymous Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach (1824-89), considered to be the greatest orchid taxonomist of his day and the possessor of one of the finest herbariums in Europe. Reichenbach died before the publication was finished, leaving the project to be finished by Sander and his chief artist, H. G. Moon. The "Reichenbachia" was delivered to subscribers in monthly parts and took seven years to complete due in large part to the meticulous level of detail involved, including hand finishing of many of the chromolithographs; the resulting effect sets it apart as one of the finest botanical productions of the period. There was also an Imperial Edition of this work printed at the same time, limited to 100 copies; it was signed by Sander and the plates mounted on oversized sheets, but it is otherwise identical to the present edition. The beauty of the plates here also means that this is a work often found disbound and broken up. Our copy is complete, save for a single leaf of text, and is also advantageously priced in comparison to the Imperial Edition, which fetches substantially more.

Price: $24,900.00