“The Librarian’s Nightmare.”
Such is the name given to a delightful and quirky vignette found within a very rare, and very special, orchid book: James Bateman’s The Orchidaceae of Mexico and Guatemala (-1843).
This vignette, the work of caricaturist George Cruikshank, depicts a group of men struggling to lift an enormous book using a pulley system while a harried taskmaster with a megaphone attempts to direct their work and demons dance about with impish glee on the sidelines.
The vignette’s caption, translated from the Greek, reads “a big book is a big evil”.
The scene is a humorous commentary on the massive size of Bateman’s orchid book. At about 30” x 22” and weighing in at over 38 lbs, it is the “largest botanical book ever produced with lithographic plates”.