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Insecta Maderensia; being an Account of the Insects of the Islands of the Madeiran Group

by Wollaston, Thomas Vernon

  • Hardback £1,950.00
  • Used Book Availability : In stock
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  • Catalogue No : 29989
  • Published : 1854
  • Cover : Hardback
  • Pages : xliii, 634
  • Publisher : Van Voorst
  • Published In : London
  • Illustrations : 13 hand-col plates

Description:

Rare. This work had a small print run, with only 50 subscribers (according to a printed subscribers list in the author's own copy, sold at Sotheby's in 2012), so copies are rarely available. Engraved plates by Frederick Smith (after J.O. Westwood). Error in pagination in this copy with pp xli-xliii numbered as 33-35. Thomas Vernon Wollaston (1822-1878) was a conchologist and entomologist. Due to ill health he spent a number of winters in Madeira and other Atlantic Oceans. Wollaston published over 40 scientific papers and is best known for his studies of Coleoptera inhabiting the Atlantic islands, noting in 1854, that nearly half of the native beetles of Madeira were flightless. This important observation was included by Darwin in 'The Origin of Species' (1859) as an example of adaptation to island life. In 1855 Darwin wrote to Hooker that ‘Wollaston’s Insecta Maderensia is an admirable work’. Wollaston states in the preface that he had provided detailed locality information to assist collectors seeking beetles on Madeira. The reason for this unusual precision was that Madeira was such a popular winter destination for English invalids, that Wollaston thought that they would benefit from knowing where they could find interesting specimens. A.J. Cain believes this work “was the origin of really precise locality labels in zoology”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (1984, Vol 21).

Horn-Schenkling: 134764; Nissen ZBI: 4440.

Condition

Large-4to, orig. blue cloth with blind-stamped decorative design to both covers, rebacked preserving original spine; scuff mark to rear cover. Foxing to some plates, mostly marginal, but heavier to first and last. Vg.

This copy bears the decorative book plate of John Gray, with the motto 'Tenebo' (Bernard Burke: 'The General Armory of England' identifies the armorial design as the Gray family of Farley Hill Place, Berkshire and Compton Fold, Lancaster). It is interesting to note that in 'The Correspondence of Charles Darwin', Vol. 14, it is stated that 'Richard Thomas Lowe and Thomas Vernon Wollaston visited the Cape Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, in 1866 on a yacht owned by John Gray to collect plants, insects, and molluscs (Cook, 1995) and that “Gray, a friend of Wollaston’s, has not been further identified”'.

In a letter from Wollaston to Sir Joseph Hooker, 1875 (now in the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew), Wollaston refers to John Gray as a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, in whose yacht he and Richard Lowe visited the Canaries and Cape Verde (JSTOR). This copy helps to identify the mysterious yachtsman who helped Wollaston in his travels.

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