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Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

--Barbara Tuchman

The Scientific Revolution that occurred in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe was ushered in and spread by books. Gutenberg’s invention of movable type revolutionized book production while the development of linear perspective by Italian artists allowed precise representation of three-dimensional objects. The invention of the microscope in the seventeenth century opened up new realms for scientific research. Together, these advancements transformed the study of natural history; nowhere more so than in entomology.

The history of entomology is stored in books. Books are vulnerable objects; it takes no effort to toss them out or give them away when their owner dies or disappears. They are casualties of war, fire, floods and shipwrecks. The act of collecting books is an act of preservation. Nowhere is this more true than with the Franclemont Collection, a collection of entomological books of significant historical importance that Professor Franclemont donated to the Comstock Memorial Library of Entomology at Cornell University upon his death. Fabricius, Hübner and Latreille, pioneering entomologists of the late 1700’s are represented with multiple volumes. Important and unusual works from around the world can be seen in such works as a small book of butterflies from New South Wales, described and illustrated when southeast Australia was little more than a penal colony. A book from Japan is made up of prints made from actual butterfly wings. Professor John Franclemont's gift of his book collection demonstrated forethought, wisdom and generosity by adding a wealth of invaluable material to the Comstock Library's already outstanding collection of rare books.

As any collection does, the Franclemont Collection tells us something about the collector. The majority of the books are about Lepidoptera. Professor Franclemont began collecting butterflies and moths at an early age and was well-instructed in the finer points of pinning and spreading them by an uncle. As an entomologist at the Smithsonian and Cornell University, he specialized in lepidoptery. The collection also contains seven early editions of Linnaeus’s groundbreaking work of biological classification, Systema Naturae. During his 30 years at Cornell, Professor Franclemont taught insect taxonomy, and focused his life’s efforts to mentor over 20 doctoral students in insect systematics and to serve on the committees of nearly 30 more. Attesting to his effectiveness as a teacher of taxonomy, at one point, six curators at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History were Franclemont students. Most would agree that they never stopped being Franclemont students even after leaving Cornell.

And finally, what the Franclemont Collection shows us about the collector is the man’s generous and kindly spirit. His beneficent gift of these incomparable historic resources allows us access to over 200 years of the most important entomological writings and illustrations in the world.

Encyclopédie Méthodique par Ordre des Matières (Histoire Naturelle: Entomologie…), by Pierre-André Latreille, Paris, 1819

The leading entomologists of the 18th century, notably Linnaeus and Fabricius, were describers and system builders at the same time. As the number of known insects increased rapidly toward the century’s end, the need for a satisfactory taxonomic system became urgent.

Pierre-André Latreille (1760-1833) put together a more workable system based on a combination of the features that Linnaeus and Fabricius used with added attention to morphological details from all parts of the insect body.

This book is part of a 206-volume encyclopedia published over a 50-year period from 1782-1832. Its title translates to “Methodical Encyclopedia by Order of Subject Matter.” This ambitious undertaking was a revised and expanded version of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, the illustrated 35-volume work of Enlightenment thought and belief, as well as a compendium of the technologies of the period. During its lengthy publication period, the Encyclopédie Méthodique employed 1,000 workers and 2,250 contributors. Latreille wrote and edited the section on entomology.

Deutsche Schmetterlingskunde für Anfänger nebst einer Anleitung zum Sammeln, by Adolph Speyer, Mainz, 1868

Most of the rare books in the Franclemont Collection are works of scientific research written for academics and scholars. In contrast, this is a guide for the amateur, with instructions on finding, collecting and identifying German butterflies.

By 1868, enthusiasm for natural history collections was in full swing. Men, women and children of the middle and upper classes gathered and displayed shells, bird eggs and nests, pressed plants and netted butterflies. Amateur collectors, both as individuals or as members of entomological clubs, played an important role in building the large butterfly and moth collections of the 19th century.

The illustration shown here includes a trap with a removable lid, two types of nets, a display of lepidoptera and a housing for caterpillars.

Beiträge zur Geschichte europäischer Schmetterlinge: mit Abbildungen nach der Natur, by C. F. Freyer, Augsburg, 1828-30

The author describes these beautiful little volumes as “entomological pocket books.” His intention was that they be tucked into a pocket and carried on field trips. Their small size and purpose classifies these as field guides; their date of publication makes them very early field guides. Illustrated books of natural history at this time were much larger in order to more easily accommodate the lithographic stones or engraving plates used for illustrations.

Each illustration in this book show the complete life cycle of a butterfly: egg, larva, pupa, and adult, as well as habitat and the top and bottom surfaces of wings.

Cho no Rinpun Tensha to Kenbikyo Kansatsu, by Miyazaki Kyoko, 1951

Each page of this unusual book has two butterfly prints cut out and pasted to it. Under magnification, it becomes clear that the prints were made with the actual butterfly wings.

Printing from natural objects, or nature printing, has been practiced since at least the early 1400’s. Most commonly seen are leaf prints, made by inking and printing leaves. Butterfly and moth prints are created by arranging the wings on a sheet of paper coated with gum arabic, a light adhesive. This is then run through a press, the pressure causing the wing scales to transfer to the paper. The body of the butterfly or moth is then painted or printed between the wings.

Index Alphabeticus in J. C. Fabricii Entomologiam Systematicam Emendatam et Auctam, Ordines, Genera et Species Continens, by Johann Christian Fabricius, [Denmark], 1796

One of the earliest books in the Franclemont Collection is this 1796 work on insect classification by Johann Christian Fabricius (1745-1808), a Danish student of Linnaeus and professor of natural history, finance and economics in Kiel, Germany. In contrast to Linneaeus’s insect classification system based on wings, Fabricius established an insect taxonomic system based on mouthparts, which he believed to be the mark of the most natural genera since their characteristics stemmed from the diet of each insect and their biology is dependent on their diet.

Although Fabricius considered systematics more important than a dry description of the various species, his contributions in this area are imposing: he named and described at least 10,000 insects.

Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Crustacés et des Insectes, by Pierre-André Latreille, Paris, 1804-05

Latreille’s intended ecclesiastical career was subverted by the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. Imprisoned during this national upheaval, his jailers released him when attention was focused on his discovery of a previously unknown species of beetle which he found in his jail cell.

Frail in constitution throughout his life, Latreille had been encouraged since childhood to pursue natural history as a means of strengthening his health. By the end of the 1790’s, he was considered one of the foremost entomologists of the day, yet spent most of his career in subordinate positions which earned him only a meager living.

A mark of the French Revolution can be seen in this volume by Latreille. On the title page the date of publication is given as “An XIII.” When the National Convention declared the formation of the First French Republic on September 22, 1791 they decreed that after a year of readjustment, the Christian calendar would be replaced by a Revolutionary Calendar, in which the years would be named I (from September 22, 1792 to September 21, 1793), II, III, etc. Therefore, “An XIII” was 1804-05. When Napoleon came into power, he abolished this calendar January 1, 1806.

The Nomenclature of British Insects: Being a Compendious List of Such Species as Are Contained in the Systematic Catalogue of British Insects, and Forming a Guide to Their Classification, by James Francis Stephens, London, 1829

The value of a book is enhanced two ways when its provenance can be traced to an illustrious owner or, in this case, owners. First, the book’s assessed value increases when signed or notated by a celebrated owner. This copy of The Nomenclature of British Insects was the personal copy of its author, James Francis Stephens. After Stephens’s death, it then passed into the collection of H. T. Stainton, another noted British entomologist. Second, for the passionate bibliophile, is the thrill of possessing an intimate connection to a hero—opening the same book and turning the same pages earlier touched by one’s idol.

Stephens (1792-1852) actually had a day job in the Admiralty Office in London but in his spare time assisted the curator of the insect collection at the British Museum in cataloguing the museum’s collection. His Nomenclature of British Insects contains 10,116 species, two-thirds of which Stephens had collected himself. It was a remarkable achievement, especially as he worked with little or no outside help.

A Genuine and Universal System of Natural History, by Carl von Linné with Johann Friedrich Gmelin, London, 1794-1810

Professor Franclemont’s interest in the history of insect classification can be seen in his book collection’s inclusion of seven early editions of Systema Naturae, Linnaeus’s groundbreaking 1735 work of biological classification. This English translation shows insects with wings prominently displayed since Linnaeus’s system relied primarily on the number and configuration of their wings.

A Natural History of the Lepidopterous Insects of New South Wales Collected, Engraved, and Faithfully Painted After Nature, by John William Lewin, London, 1822

This rare work was originally published in 1805 when recently-colonized southeast Australia was little more than a British penal colony. Lewin writes in the preface:

The contents of this little Volume of Lepidopterous Insects, indigenous of New South Wales, were there collected, painted, and engraved by the Author; and sent to London by him for publication, to furnish him with the means of returning to England, his native country, after an absence of nearly eight years, which he has spent almost solely in the pursuit of natural history…

In each illustration, Lewin takes pains to depict the larva, pupa, adult and habitat of each species.

Sammlung Europäischer Schmetterlinge, by Jacob Hübner, Augsberg, Germany, 1793-1841

In the earliest days of the Linnean period, the number of known species of lepidoptera was very small. As the 18th century closed, the number of species described had increased, as had the difficulties being experienced in identifying closely allied species by means only of the brief Latin descriptors that had previously been considered sufficient. Entomologists now needed works with accurate colored illustrations from which it would be possible to determine with certainty the identification of species so far named. What was needed was someone who was both an entomologist and a skilled draftsman and who was prepared to devote his skills to the publication of illustrated works on entomology.

These skills were combined in Jacob Hübner (1761-1826.) At a time when the serious study of natural science was confined to academics and those with the leisure afforded by family money, Hübner was an anomoly. For most of his adult life, he worked as a draftsman and engraver at a cotton mill in Augsburg, Germany, creating designs for printing on fabrics. Hübner’s passion for lepidoptery, combined with his drawing and classification skills, resulted in groundbreaking books that furnished a foundation for the identification of butterflies and moths.

Coleoptera und Lepidoptera: ein systematisches Verzeichniss, mit beygesetzten Preisen der Vorräthe by Georg Dahl, Vienna, 1823

This very unusual book is a listing of beetles, butterflies and moths for sale from the collection of Georg Dahl in Vienna. He writes of a 30 year career in collecting and distributing entomological specimens, describing repeated requests by other collectors that his collection be put into systematic order for easier viewing and selecting; yet a lack of time and the fact that so many specimens remained uncataloged had until recently made that task impossible.

The resulting work lists 5,492 available coleoptera, with their prices to the right given in florins and kroners, as well as their country of origin. Only the available specimens were given a handwrittern number. The lepidoptera section is much smaller, with no numbers or prices.

Beiträge zur Geschichte der Schmetterlinge, by Jacob Hübner, Augsberg, 1786-1790

This is Hübner’s second work, which, according to one source, “caused a small sensation.” This was due to the fact that Hübner devoted much attention to a little known subject at the time, the early stages (caterpillar and pupa) of the butterflies pictured.

Hübner (1761-1826) completed most of this work while working for three years as a designer and engraver at a cotton factory in the Ukraine. When not at the factory, he spent his time collecting butterflies and moths in the surrounding countryside, stimulated by the number of new species not found near his home in Augsberg, Germany.

Hübner proposed many new genera as well as species. His publications were issued in numerous sections, some after his death, and most without associated publication dates. As such, his publications were of dubious taxonomic validity until Francis Hemming, longtime Secretary of the International Commission of Zoologial Nomenclature, summarized all citations of Hübner’s proposed taxonomic names, thereby constraining the possible dates of publication and establishing the criteria needed to accept these beautiful plates as valid taxonomic publications.

British Butterflies and Their Transformations, arranged and illustrated in a series of plates by H. N. Humphreys with characters and descriptions by J. O. Westwood, London, 1841

It is not surprising that when Henry Noel Humphreys began to study “the profusion and variety of insect life” while living in Italy; his artist’s eye was drawn particularly to the “glittering butterflies.” Upon returning to England, his research into Lepidoptera revealed the need for a comprehensive book on British butterflies and moths. He undertook this work himself, illustrating the larva, pupa and adult of each species and collaborating with J. O. Westwood, professor of zoology at Oxford, who wrote the text.

In the preface to his book, Humphreys has this to say about the study of entomology:

In this place it is usual to put forth some argument in favour of the study of such subjects as the book treats of, but it seems scarcely necessary to urge anything in favour of the delightful study of entomology. The great beauty of many tribes of insects, their wonderful and minute organization, their extraordinary metamorphoses, and the links they add to the chain of created beings, appear to form an all-sufficient attraction.


Exhibit Curator: Ashley Miller

Exhibit Technician: Frank Brown

Web Design: Pisut Wisessing'08

Production Manager: Eveline Ferretti

Exhibit consultants: James Liebherr Department of Entomology, Cornell University) and Marty Schlabach (Comstock Memorial Library of Entomology, Cornell University)

German language translation: Roswitha Clark

The images displayed in this online exhibit are excerpted from an exhibit hosted by the Comstock Memorial Library of Entomology at Cornell University in the summer and fall of 2007. The exhibit featured a selection of rare volumes donated by the late Professor John G. Franclemont to the Comstock Library’s exceptional collection of old and rare works in the field of entomology. A press release announcing the exhibit provides more information about Prof. Franclemont's gift, and viewers interested in learning of specific titles are invited to view the full listing of volumes added to the Comstock Library from Professor Franclemont's collection. The Comstock Library is deeply grateful for the priceless enhancement of the library collection made possible by Professor Franclemont's bequest, and we are honored to be entrusted with the record this extraordinary gift offers of Professor Franclemont's lasting legacy in his field.