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......
Ants – the ultimate social insects. British Wildlife Collection
A way with worms
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
Wow! What a treasure. I’d be thrilled as anything to get it too. I love having reference books of anything relating to the natural world (despite all that’s available now online). But to receive an older work like that with his personal observations and watercolours is special indeed. I consider the watercolours of fauna and flora, from a time sadly noe passed, to be among the best illustrations ever produced. Lucky you! You obviously made quite an impression on your former student – the mark of a good teacher.
How lovely is that? It’s so pleasing these days when someone is thinking about you and they want to buy you a little gift just to show their appreciation, for whatever. And all this time you have no idea…..
Good for you Richard, keep up the goods work. :-)