This study represents the first part of a series dedicated to the work of Rudolf Schlechter on the orchid flora of South America. The historical background of Schlechter’s botanical activity is outlined, and salient aspects of his biography, as well as his main scientific relationships, in particular with Oakes Ames, and the origins of his interest in tropical America are discussed. We also present a complete bibliography relative to Schlechter’s production on the orchid floras of South American countries, with his network of orchid collectors, growers and other purveyors, and checklists of all the new taxa that he described from each individual country.


Key words: bibliography, biography, history of botany, Orchidaceae, South America