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A Natural History of English Insects; Illustrated with A Hundred Copper Plates, Curiously engraven from Life, and exactly coloured by the Author...

by Albin, Eleazar

  • Hardback £4,500.00
  • Used Book Availability : In stock
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  • Catalogue No : 38082
  • Published : 1749
  • Cover : Hardback
  • Pages : [108]


5th edition. For this edition the entire text was reset and a number of errors corrected. This copy omits the 26-page section to the rear containining Derham's notes and index, which according to Lisney is 'often missing', however it is not called for in ESTC. The attractive hand-coloured plates illustrate mostly butterflies and moths and their larvae on food-plants, and a few illustrate other insects.

Eleazar Albin (d. 1742?) was a naturalist and watercolour painter. Very little is known of his early life, he may have been born somewhere in the German states to a family named Weiss. By 1708 he had adopted the surname Albin, had married, and was living in or near the parish of St James's, Piccadilly. Around 1709-10 Albin met Mary, dowager duchess of Beaufort, a keen botanist who encouraged him to begin work on a natural history of insects. The first plates were engraved in 1713 and work proceeded apace until the onset of financial difficulties caused by the death of his patroness in January 1715. Although Albin had by this time already issued Proposals for Printing by Subscription ‘A Natural History of English Insects’ ([1714?]), subscriptions were slow to come in and as a result the work was not finally published until 1720. Ultimately attracting 170 subscribers, 'A Natural History of English Insects' contained 100 copper plates which were hand-coloured by the author on request. Albin stressed that the insects depicted were copied ‘exactly after the Life’ as he had ‘observed it as a great Fault of those who have gone before me in this Way, that they either did not look often enough at their Pattern, or affected to make the Picture outdo Nature’. (ODNB)

Lisney, 123; Freeman, 45; ESTC T85943.


4to, cont. full polished calf, gt, rubbed and a little scuffed, top and fore-edges of boards neatly restored, small nick to top of spine; marbled endpapers; one plate bound inverted; some offsetting from plates to facing text pages; some occasional minor foxing. A very good copy.

Provenance: Engraved bookplates of Sir Foster Cunliffe, 3rd Baronet (1755-1834), of Acton Park, Wrexham (the fortune of the Cunliffe family was made through slavery; his grandfather, also Foster Cunliffe, being the main slave trader in Liverpool), and John Blackburne (1754-1833), of Orford Hall, nr. Warrington, (MP for Lancashire 1784-1830). An inscription to the endpaper states, 'Given me by Sir Foster Cunliffe, J.B.' Blackburne's grandfather, also John (1693-1786), was a noted amateur botanist who cultivated impressive gardens at Orford, while his daughter, Anna (1726-1793), the younger John's aunt, corresponded with Carl Linnaeus and Johann Reinhold Forster on entomological subjects.

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