DONOVAN, Edward.

An epitome of the natural history of the insects of China:


An epitome of the natural history of the insects of China:
comprising figures and descriptions of Upwards of One Hundred New, Singular, and Beautiful Species; Together with Some that are of Importance in Medicine, Domestic Economy, &c. the Figures are Accurately Drawn, Engraved, and Coloured, from Specimens of the Insects; the Descriptions are Arranged According to the System of Linnaeus; with References to the Writings of Fabricius, and Other Systematic Authors. By E. Donovan, Author of the Natural History of British Insects, &c.
London, Printed for the author, by T. Bensley…, 1798.

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Little is known of the early life of Edward Donovan (1768–1837). His interest in natural history started with the collecting of shells and preservation of insects, probably before 1788. He was a prolific author and skilled artist who etched and engraved the plates for all his works. He became a fellow of the Linnean Society.

Donovan’s main interest was entomology and his published works included sixteen volumes of British Insects (1792–1813) and the three ‘magnificently illustrated’ (Dunbar) volumes on The Insects of China, India and New Holland, the last being dedicated to Sir Joseph Banks, and acknowledging use of his collections and library. Donovan’s approach was to show species that had not been illustrated before, and many previously undescribed. The illustrations of tropical butterflies, moths, and other insects set against backgrounds of plants and flowers represent a significant advance in compositional style which seem likely to have influenced others in the ensuing Victorian era, in particular H. Noel Humphreys. Indeed later editions of these books were reissued in the 1840’s.


First edition. 4to., [98]pp., 50 hand-coloured engraved plates, tissue guards, contemporary red morocco gilt, neatly rebacked preserving spine, occasional light foxing, a fine example.


Dunbar, British Butterflies, page 48; Nissen ZBI 1143.


Stock ID: 95140