Reichenbachia. Orchids Illustrated and Described. Imperial Edition. First and Second Series.

Reichenbachia. Orchids Illustrated and Described. Imperial Edition. First and Second Series.
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London: H. Sotheran and Co., and F. Sander & Co. of St. Albans, 1888-1894. Four vols., imperial folio, 675 x 495 mm, illustrated with 192 chromolithographs mounted on thick card, most finished by hand, with text in English, French, and German. Volume one bound in contemporary deluxe full crushed brown morocco, gilt extra on covers and spines, volumes 2-4 bound in three-quarter brown morocco by Bumpus of London. Some minor staining or discoloration to boards. Some foxing throughout, mostly on the mounts. Series 1, vol. 2, plate 49 has a corner of the board missing. Series 2, vol. 2, plates 50, 51, 52, 53, and 54 are reattached to their mounts. The rare “Imperial Edition”, of which only 100 sets were made, each volume weighing over 40 pounds (18.15 kilos). One of the two monumental works devoted to orchids published in the nineteenth century, the other being Bateman's The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala, which was illustrated with only 40 plates, and is not nearly as rare. In terms of size and scale Sander's work is to flower books what the elephant folio edition of Audubon is to bird books.Henry Sander was born in Bremen in 1847 and moved in 1867 to England where he worked in nurseries in Forest Hill before starting his own independent business in St. Albans. With the immense success of his nursery Sander felt encouraged to publish a massive set of orchid illustrations. In 1885 he commissioned the artist Henry Moon to produce life-sized illustrations, which were printed in coloured lithography by his own firm's presses. Moon was responsible for a majority of the 192 plates, with W.H. Fitch, A.H. Loch, George Hansen, Charles Storer, J.Watton, and J.L. Macfarlane contributing the remainder of the plates, some not completed until 1890.In the introduction Sander explains that "the growing popularity of orchids, and the ever-increasing demand for information respecting them, is sufficient reason for issuing the present work. It will be our aim to represent truthfully the natural aspect of the plants, which will be drawn life size... Some of the plant portraits will be coloured by lithography, others will be hand painted when found expedient. It is our intention to illustrate all classes of the orchid family.""By modern standards the work was of a monstrous size... Where the orchid was concerned, Sander never spared himself, but even so, the care lavished on 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 £7000... It is no wonder that Sander often remarked in later years that the project almost ruined him" (A. Swinson, Frederick Sander: the Orchid King, 1970).PROVENANCE: Lionel Phillips and Cynthia Johnson, with their ex-libris.BM(NH) IV, 1800. Great Flower Books (1990) 135. Nissen, BBI 1722. Stafleu and Cowan 10.219 (4). (Item Id: 107826)

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