James Bateman (1811-1897) The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala. London: J. Ridgway & Sons for the author, -1843. Large 2° (734 x 520mm). 1p. subscriber's list, addenda & corrigenda slip bound at back. Lithographic pictorial title, 40 FINE HAND-COLOURED LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES, drawn on stone by P. Gauci after Miss S.A. Drake (16), Mrs. Augusta Withers (21), Miss Jane Edwards (1), Samuel Holden (1) and one unsigned, 33 printed by Gauci, one uncoloured plan of "epiphyte-houses" and 38 wood-engraved vignettes, two by George Cruikshank. (Margins of plates lightly soiled, 9 plates with slight spotting, 6 with heavier spotting, title spotted, dedication leaf creased vertically, repaired tears to blank margins of plates 26, 29, 39 and 40, text leaf to plate 22 with repaired tear to blank margin.) Contemporary red half morocco gilt, spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second and third, the others with repeat decoration in gilt, g.e. (slightly soiled, scuffed). ONE OF THE RAREST, AND "PERHAPS THE MOST RENOWNED AND SOUGHT-AFTER OF ALL ORCHID BOOKS" (W.Stearn John Lindley p.133). "IN THIS BOOK, THE GREAT ORCHIDS OF CENTRAL AMERICA LIVE FOR US IN ALL THEIR GLORY." (Blunt). Limited to 125 copies, the work is "probably the finest, and certainly the largest, botanical book ever produced with lithographic plates.. In size and in splendour, Bateman's giant folio eclipses the works of all who went before or came after him. Maxim Gauci, who was born in Malta, executed the forty lithographs..; a master of the process, he ranged his tone from the palest of silvery greys to the richest velvet black; his outline is never mechanical or obtrusive; and the hand-colouring -- whoever may be responsible for it -- is executed with consummate skill." (W.Blunt. The Art of Botanical Illustration, 1994, pp.249-251). Bateman was a pioneer of the culture of Orchids. "In 1833 he sent at his own expense, the collector Colley to Demerara and Berbice to collect plants.. Shortly afterwards he induced G. Ure Skinner, a merchant trading in Guatemala, to send him orchids. In 1837 he commenced the publication [of the present work].. which he completed in 1843... Bateman was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society.. 1833 and of the Royal Society.. 1838.. In 1867 he issued 'A Second Century of Orchidaceous Plants'.. Between 1864 and 1874 he published 'A Monograph of Odontglossum.' Bateman was not only the pioneer of orchid culture, he was also one of the first to advocate 'cool' orchid cultivation" (DNB). Sarah Anne Drake (1803-1857) and Augusta Innes Withers (c.1793-1864), the two principal artists, produced 37 of the 40 original watercolours. Miss Drake of Turnham Green, as she was known professionally, was born in Norfolk. From about 1832 until 1847 she was a botanist and orchidologist, John Lindley's principal botanical artist, and also a member of his household. She returned to Norfolk in 1847 and married in 1852, but died of diabetes in 1857. Mrs. Withers worked for the Horticultural Society in the 1820s and was appointed flower painter to Queen Adelaide in 1830, and later became Flower and Fruit Painter in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. Little more is known of her life other than her work. Great Flower Books p.48; Nissen BBI 89; Stafleu & Cowan 342.