4 June 2003
PAPILIA GENUS -- An album of butterflies and moths, English school, [c. 1805].
Oblong 4° (230 x 287mm). 23 pages illustrating 99 butterflies, moths and pupae from China, India and Europe, and 19 blanks. Each insect drawn on vellum, cut and mounted, with torsos in relief, notes in two distinct hands, some with backgrounds in the form of shadows or plants, feelers applied in pen and ink. (Occasional very light spotting, splitting at hinge.) Bound in straight-grained red morocco ruled in gilt, marbled endpapers (extremities lightly rubbed).
AN EXTRAORDINARY ALBUM OF VELLUM 'BUTTERFLIES', each example composed of delicately painted vellum wings, torso and pupae mounted on the page. There is a clear scientific element to this album, as many of the butterflies are shown in two postures -- with their wings both open and closed. Many of the European butterflies and moths appear to be modelled on images available in Jean Fuessly's work Archives de l'histoire des insectes (Germany, 1794) as noted on one leaf; while the exotic specimens are probably inspired by Donovan's works on Chinese and Indian insects (published in 1798 and 1800). Although entomological research was pioneered in Holland in the early 18th century, it remained an unusual pursuit in England even in the early 19th century. Edward Newman (1801 -1879) in his Grammar of Entomology (1835) referred to the common opinion 'that a person who could take an interest in pursuing a butterfly is a madman.'
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