One evening last week the door bell went, and there on the doorstep was one of my old Ivydale students (now in year 8) and her mum. They’d picked up a vintage bug book from a market stall and wanted to give it to me as a present. It’s the 1938 Detmold-illustrated edition of Fabre’s Book of Insects. What a delight.
Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915) is slightly forgotten in the UK nowadays; not only was he French (although most of what he wrote was translated into English), but because he was writing for a general audience his works perhaps lack the lasting scientific gravitas of the monograph-producing elite. Nevertheless there is much to find in his charming, slightly old-fashioned, prose, and his personal observations are just as poignant today as they were a century ago.
In this volume the watercolour pictures are exquisite. Obviously the dung beetle frontis is my favourite.
CURIOUS? WHY CURIOUS?When 17th century apothecary and naturalist James Petiver published a picture of what, for 200 years, would be Britain's most enigmatic butterfly, Albin's Hampstead Eye, he reported: "Where it was caught by this curious person". His implication was that Eleazar Albin was not just strange, not just odd, but was fuelled by curiosity.
Ongoing projects:These are some of the books and other projects going on at the moment......
Beetles — in the Collins New Naturalist series
Call of nature: the secret life of dung
House guests, house pests
How to be a curious entomologist
BBC Wildlife Magazine