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WARNER, Robert - The Orchid Album  


WARNER, Robert (1814-1896), Benjamin Samuel WILLIAMS (1822-1890) and Thomas MOORE (1821-1887). The Orchid Album, Comprising Colored Figures and Descriptions of New, Rare, and Beautiful Orchidaceous Plants. London: Published by B.S. Williams, at the Victoria and Paradise Nurseries, 1882-1897.

11 volumes, large quarto (12 1/4 x 9 5/8 inches). (304 x 247 mm). Original publisher's binding of brown decorated cloth, the upper cover and spine blocked in gilt and black, the lower cover in blind, gilt edges. 528 lithographic plates by and after John Nugent Fitch on 527 sheets, partly hand-colored, partly color-printed, plates 9/10 a double-page plate, uncolored portrait of Williams (Occasional light spotting, mostly affecting endpapers, generally clean and colors fresh.) Original brown cloth gilt (spines strengthened, extremities worn, new endpapers); Each volume is housed in a cloth folding case.

FIRST EDITION OF THESE BEAUTIFUL PLATES. Benjamin Samuel William's obituary, appearing in volume 9, recollects the intentions of this magnificent work: "In 1881 he commenced his magnum opus, the Orchid Album, which was projected with the idea of supplying a demand for illustrations of Orchidaceous plants, with botanical descriptions of the plants figured, and notes on their cultivation ... Its appearance was hailed with great satisfaction in horticultural circles throughout the world, and it numbers among its subscribers nearly all lovers of Orchids and many of our leading and most influential horticulturalists." The illustrator, John Nugent Fitch (1840-1927), was the nephew of the equally-prolific botanical artist Walter Hood Fitsch. His original drawings for The Orchid Album are in the Natural History Museum, South Kensington. Great Flower Books, p.80; Nissen BBI 2107; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 6282. (11)

  A very fine complete set of this important record of all of the greatest orchid varieties discovered and described during the nineteenth century, with beautiful illustrations of the highest quality by John Nugent Fitch.

This important work was published periodically by B.S. Williams from his nurseries in Holloway, London, from 1882 until his death in 1890. His son, Henry Williams, continued the publication through to its conclusion in 1897. These dates are important as they mark the final period when significant new varieties of orchids were discovered in the wild. This work therefore, with its selection based largely on the discoveries made during the nineteenth century, offers an unparalleled record of all the best orchid varieties before the impact of the 'captive-bred' hybrids. The preface to the first volume lays out the aims of the publishers `The great advances which have been made within the last few years in the introduction and the cultivation of Exotic Orchids, have suggested the desirability of devoting a monthly publication to the illustration of the best forms of these singular and aristocratic plants, and also to the explanation of the most successful methods of growing them'.

The plates by John Nugent Fitch (a member of the greatest family of British 19th-century botanical artists) benefit greatly from the large format of the work `Being of Royal Quarto size, the pages of the Album are sufficiently large to enable the artist to produce ample and intelligible portraits of the plants without their becoming cumbersome'. The resultant work offers both a fascinating insight into the state of knowledge about orchids and their cultivation, and also an unrivalled visual record by one of the great botanical artists of the day.

Great Flower Books (1990) p.149; Nissen BBI 2107; The Orchid Observed 23.     



Price: $25,000.00 


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