Robert Warner (1814-1896), & Benjamin Williams (1824-1890)
Select Orchidaceous Plants. London: Taylor & Co. for Lovell Reeve & Co. [series I & II], Robert Warner [series III], 1862-. 3 volumes, 2 (448 x 325mm). Half-titles. 118 hand-coloured lithographic plates, one unsigned, the others by and after W.H. Fitch (82), J.N. Fitch (22), James Andrews (10), J.L. Macfarlane (3), printed by West, Vincent Brooks or Vincent Brooks, Day & Son. (Occasional light spotting or browning, 38 plates in the first volume with almost imperceptable signs of the removal of ink ownership stamps from upper left blank margins.) Original publisher's green bubble-grain cloth, upper covers blocked in gilt and blind, g.e. (slight scuffing to extremities, small splits to upper joint of vol.II), all contained in a single modern quarter green morocco box. Provenance: Col. H.B. Fletcher (gift to:); Worthing Public Library (bookplate in vol.I recording gift).
A FINE COMPLETE SET, INCLUDING THE EXCEPTIONALLY RARE THIRD SERIES, ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL OF ALL ORCHID BOOKS, LARGELY ILLUSTRATED BY WALTER HOOD FITCH: 'THE MOST OUTSTANDING BOTANICAL ARTIST OF HIS DAY IN EUROPE' (Blunt & Stearn The Art of Botanical Illustration  p.265). Warner and Williams concentrated on newly introduced species in this work and evidently launched the enterprise just as the burgeoning interest in orchids took hold, originally planned as a single volume, the work eventually expanded to three.
THE THIRD SERIES IS ONE OF THE LEGENDARY RARITIES AMONGST LARGE FORMAT NATURAL HISTORY WORKS: NO COMPLETE COPY IS LISTED AS HAVING APPEARED AT AUCTION IN THE PAST 25 YEARS. It was published in very small numbers between 1882 and 1891. 13 of the plates were drawn by Walter Hood Fitch, but the majority (22) were by his nephew John Nugent Fitch (1840-1927) who had taken over as botanical artist to the Botanical Magazine when his uncle resigned in 1878. Of the remaining four plates, one is unsigned and three are by J.L. Macfarlane (1836-c.1913).
Of the 79 plates in the first two series (published in 1862-1865 and 1865-1875 respectively), 10 are by James Andrews (1801-1876) and the remaining 69 are by W.H. Fitch (1817-1892). The 'most prolific of all botanical artists' (Blunt & Stearn p.265), of whom his first patron, Sir William Hooker, said "I don't think Fitch could make a mistake in his perspective and outline, not even if he tried". His work on orchids amply demonstrates this and shows 'his incredible ability in dealing with complex botanical structures' (Blunt & Stearn p.264), contemporary reviewers wrote that the best of the plates in the present work were the equal of anything that the Bauers produced. J.Lewis. Walter Hood Fitch (London: 1992) pp.20 & 32; Nissen BBI 2108; Great Flower Books (1990) p.149. (3)