MOFFET, Thomas (1553-1604). Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalium Theatrum. London: Thomas Cotes for Benjamin Allen, 1634.
2o (295 x 184 mm). Large woodcut on title surrounded on three sides by various insects, 4 pages of woodcuts of insects at end, numerous woodcuts in text of hundreds of varieties of insects and small creatures. (Tear on lower margin crossing imprint repaired.) Contemporary English calf (rebacked with sheep). Provenance: Early notations on front pastedown; John, Baron Rolle of Stevenstone (1750-1842), armorial bookplate); Haskell F. Norman (bookplate; his sale part I, Christie's New York, 18 March 1998, lot 133).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, OF THE FIRST ENTOMOLOGICAL BOOK PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND. Partly compiled from the writings of Edward Wotton, Conrad Gesner and Gesner's assistant Thomas Penny, Moffett's copiously illustrated treatise was the best work of its kind to date: it systematically analyzed the habits, habitat, breeding and economic importance of insects, and set a new standard of accuracy in the study of invertebrates. The work has a complex history: when Conrad Gesner died in 1565, he left among his papers an unfinished book on insects, which was eventually sold to his assistant Thomas Penny. Penny also acquired the entomological notes of Edward Wotton, and had made some progress in combining Gesner's and Wotton's information before his death in 1589. Penny's manuscript passed to his friend and neighbor Thomas Moffett, who completed it, had an engraved title (dated 1589) made for it by William Rogers, and began negotiating for its publication at The Hague. Moffett's negotiations apparently fell through, however, and the book was still in manuscript at his death. The manuscript remained in the Moffett family for many years, until Moffett's apothecary Darrell sold it to Sir Theodore Mayerne, who had it published in 1634. To reduce costs, the book appeared with woodcuts rather than engraved illustrations, and without Rogers's engraved title.
Lisney identifies three issues of Insectorum, distinguished by their imprints: the imprint of the first issue reads "Ex officina typographica Thom. Cotes. Et venales extant apud Benjam. Allen..."; that of the second issue reads "Ex officina typographica Thom. Cotes. Et venales extant apud. Guiliel. Hope..."; and the third issue's imprint simply states "Ex officina typographica Thom. Cotes." In some copies of the first issue, page 48 is correctly numbered. Garrison-Morton 288; Lisney, pp. 4-9; Norman 1528; Raven, English naturalists, ch. 10; STC 17993.