THE Flower Growers Guide
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BATEMAN, James (1811-1897): A Monograph of the Odontoglossum,
London: Savill, Edwards & Co. for L.Reeve & Co., [1867-]1874. Folio. (20 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches). Half-title. 30 hand-coloured lithographed plates by Walter Hood Fitch, printed by Vincent Brooks or Vincent Brooks, Day & Son. 20th-century blue morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, covers panelled in gilt, with fillets and a decorative roll, spine in six compartments with raised bands, lettered in second and third, and with initials 'H.C.S.' and the date '1961' at the foot of the spine, the other compartments with double fillet borders around single large centrally-placed flower tools, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges. A fine copy of the greatest work on the most beautiful of all the 'cool' orchids - the genus Odontoglossum - illustrated with magnificent plates by 'the most outstanding botanical artist of his day' (Blunt & Stearn 'The Art of Botanical Illustration'  p.265) Bateman intended the work to be made up from 'at least a dozen parts' (Introduction), but difficulties in obtaining specimens led him to complete the work in six parts (with each part containing 5 plates). Fitch's plates represent some of his finest work, executed when he was at the height of his artistic powers. His talents are particularly suited to the depiction of Orchids which allow him to demonstrate his 'incredible ability in dealing with complicated botanical structures' (Blunt & Stearn p.264). The Odontoglossum genus was not successfully introduced to Europe until relatively late in the nineteenth century. It had long been known that the genus was rich 'in species pre-eminent for the loveliness and delicacy of their flowers' (Introduction), but the mistaken belief on the part of growers that all orchids required hot humid conditions to thrive prevented (with a few accidental exceptions) the successful cultivation of any of the 'cool' orchids. In about 1860 it finally came to be appreciated that the species which lived at high altitudes (Bateman notes that Odontoglossum are not found below 2500 feet) thrive in cool temperatures and dry air. Armed with this information the so-called 'system of cool treatment' was developed by growers (Bateman's input included his Guide to Cool Orchid Growing, published in 1864), and the knowledge that those without an orchid-house could finally enjoy the beauties of the orchid gave fresh impetus to the spread of interest in orchids in general and the Odontoglossum genus in particular. 'Extremely variable in their markings, there are over three hundred known species of Odontoglossum in Mexico and South America As dealers competed to obtain them, the monetary rewards of "cornering the market" led to secrecy concerning the native habitats of newly discovered varieties.' (The Orchid observed 20). Bateman notes in the introduction that the explosion of interest in the genus was such that three independent expeditions to New Grenada 'found themselves sailing for the same destination in the same steamer on the same errand!' Great Flower Books (1990) p.73; Nissen BBI 88; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 343.