British Entomology; being illustrations and descriptions of the genera of Insects found in Great Britain and Ireland; containing coloured figures from nature of the most rareand beautiful species, and in many instances of the plants upon which they are found.
London, printed for the author, 1823-1840. 8 volumes. Royal-8vo (235 x 142mm). With 770 handcoloured engraved plates. Contemporary red half morocco, gilt decorated and lettered spines, frontcovers with red morocco label 'Veritas vincit omnia J.W', gilt edges.
An attractively bound copy of the first edition, with all plates finely engraved. In later editionsmany of the plates are reproduced in lithography, which makes them less attractive. This work was originally published in parts, and once described by Cuvier as 'the paragon of perfection'. The treated insects are depicted together with flowers or plants, which render the plates particularly charming. John Curtis was born in Norwich in 1791, son of an engraver, and his mother was described as a 'cultivator of flowers'. At the age of sixteen he went to work for a local solicitor and began to supplement his income by collecting and selling insect specimens to the gentlemen entomologists of the day and learnt the art of scientific illustration. His first published illustrations appeared in Kirby and Spence's bestseller 'Introduction to Entomology' (1815-26). In 1817 he went to London where he met many of the leading natural historians of the day, such as Sir Joseph Banks. "John Curtis is described as the first entomologist to earn a living, albeit a rather poor one, as a scientist. He liked to travel although it proved difficult because of his financial problems but he collected extensively in Britain, Ireland and Europe. In 1825 he travelled to Scotland by steam packet and returned by land, walking most of the way and collecting insects and adding thirty-two new species to the British list - all material for his dream work 'British Entomology'" (Gilbert p. 142). A systematically bound copy. Provenance: armorial bookplate of John Waterhouse Halifax and another bookplate 'Queen Margaret's School, presented by Mrs. Doherty Waterhouse'. Horn & Schenkling 4184; Nissen ZBI, 1000.
Item nr. 9529
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