Sertum Orchidaceum: a Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers
Victorian Hand-colored Orchid Lithographs

John Lindley (1799-1865) (editor)
Sarah Ann Drake (1803-1857) (after)
Maxim Gauci (1776-1854) (lithographer)
Orchids
from Sertum Orchidaceum: a Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers
James Ridgway and Sons, London: 1837-41
Hand-colored lithographs
21 x 14 inches, average approximate
$600 each

Large color plates from a Victorian work on orchids edited by the distinguished British botanist John Lindley, among the foremost orchidologists of his era.  Sertum Orchidaceum, one of his major works, was issued in ten parts between 1837 and 1841 (the publication date on the title page is given as 1838), just as orchid cultivation was becoming fashionable among the aristocracy leading to what has been called “orchidomania.”   Illustrated books on orchids remained very popular through the second half of the 19th century and in some cases provide the only record today of extinct species.  The artist Sarah Ann Drake -- "Miss Drake" as she was known -- and Maxim Gauci, who translated her drawings into lithographs, are still highly regarded for their botanical illustrations, especially of orchids.

John Lindley was "a professor of botany at the University College in London and for many years the moving spirit of the Royal Horticultural Society, one of the institutions most active in promoting the acclimatization and cultivation of these plants" (Tomasi).  He learned to draw and lithograph his own work, and illustrated some of his own monographs as well as books by others. Sarah Ann Drake, who signed her work "Miss Drake," was a prolific British botanical illustrator.  As a young woman she studied in Paris.  Drake was a close friend of Anne Lindley, wife of John Lindley, and came to reside in their home, probably at first as a governess.  Lindley trained her to create drawings from living plants and sketches that had been sent to him from around the world.  When Lindley found that his other responsibilities consumed his time, he turned to Drake as a replacement illustrator for his publications. As his illustrator, she drew from living plants and sketches that had been sent to Lindley from such places as Brazil, British Guinea, Australia and China.

Drake’s first illustrations appeared in Nathaniel Wallich’s Plantae Asiaticae Rariores, published in 1830.  She was also a frequent contributor to the Transactions of the Horticultural Society in the first half of the 19th century.  Her work for Lindley is included in the publications Edward’s Botanical Register and Ladies’ Botany.  Along with Augusta Innes Baker Withers, she illustrated "what is probably the finest, and certainly the largest, botanical book ever produced with lithographic plates, James Bateman's Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (1837-43)" (Blunt).  The exceptional quality of her work gave her wide recognition. Plates signed “Drawn from Nature and on Stone by Miss Drake” or “Miss Drake del.” are found in Lindley's Sertum Orchidaceum: A Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers and The Botany of the Voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur by George Bentham.  In acknowledgement of her contribution to his work, Lindley named the genus Drakea for her, which today contains three species – D. elastica, D. glyptodon, and D. jeanensis. Today, some of her botanical watercolors are in the collection of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

Maxim Gauci, a British lithographer born in Malta, was one of the early practitioners of lithography in Britain, and worked on portrait lithographs as well as some important British botanical books produced in the first half of the 19th century.  These include Nathaniel Wallich's Plantae Asiaticae Rariores (1830-32), John Lindley's Sertum Orchidaceum (1837-41) and James Bateman's Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (1837-43).  Botanical art historian Wilfrid Blunt called the latter "probably the finest, and certainly the largest, botanical book every produced with lithographic plates," and deemed Gauci "a master of the process" for his tonal control and his "knack of achieving precision without losing sensitivity of outline."  Several dozen portrait lithographs after Gauci are in the collection of Britain's National Portrait Gallery.

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with some light remaining toning, light mottling to paper, wear, soft creases.  Few short marginal tears and chips professionally restored.

References:

Blunt, Wilfred, rev. by Stearn, William T.  The Art of Botanical Illustration.  Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1994.  pp. 233, 249, 252, 261, 264-265 and 329.  Plates 90-93.

Lindley, John.  Sertum Orchidaceum: a Wreath of the Most Beautiful Orchidaceous Flowers.  London: James Ridgway and Sons, 1838. Online at Missouri Botanical Garden Library: http://www.illustratedgarden.org/mobot/rarebooks/library.asp?relation=QK495F50L5561838 (2 November 2011).

Nissen, Claus. Die Botanische Buchillustration: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart:1951-66.  BBI 1250.

Pfahl, Jay, et al.  Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia.  http://www.orchidspecies.com/ (3 November 2011).

Sitwell, Sacheverell. Great Flower Books, 1700-1900. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.  65.

Stafleu, Frans A. and Richard S. Cowan. Taxonomic Literature. Utrecht: 1967. 2nd ed., Utrecht: 1976-1988.  4651.

Tomasi, Lucia Tongiorgi and Rachel Lambert Mellon.  An Oak Spring Flora: Flower Illustration from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Time. New Haven: Yale University, 1997.  p. 272-4.

"Women's Work: Sarah Drake 1803-1857."  Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology.  http://www.lindahall.org/events_exhib/exhibit/exhibits/womenswork/drake1.shtml (2 November 2011).