London: Carington Bowles, 1764. Second Edition. Folio, (15 1/2 x 11 3/4 in, 394 x 300mm) Second edition, 1 title page and 12 plates engraved and hand-colored, trimmed to plate-mark at fore-edge, lightly browned, some spotting, later 3/4 red morocco with title and fillets in gilt, rubbed and a little stained, rebacked, corners worn.
The plates were engraved by Henry Roberts as evidenced in the markings of each plate the first edition, but omitted in the second edition.
[Nissen 4411; Linsey 183].
EXTREMELY RARE, COMPLETE BOUND SET of this important work, a fine hand-coloured set of decorative plates with the butterflies and moths arranged symmetrically forming kaleidoscopic patterns. Each moth or butterfly is accompanied by a number and refereneced at the foot of each page with its English name as well as annotations about what the caterpillar eats, when it changes to chrysalis, and when it flies.
The first edition of 1742 (British Museum holdings nos. 1914,0520.522 – 1914,0520.534, not colored) bears a dedicatory cartouche (text below) on the first page instead of a title page, and is a dedication by Wilkes to his fellow members of the Aurelian Society, a society of entomologists whose collection was housed on Fleet Street. These engravings, either plain or colored, were issued unbound and often sold separately. Complete sets, especially colored, are extremely rare. [Lisney 183]
The dedicatory inscription of the first edition reads: 'Dedication To the Worthy Members of the Aurelian Society. Gentlemen, Permit me the Honour of laying before You Twelve new Designs of English Butterflies; Creatures whose Elegance and Variety of Beauty demand our Admiration. Ignorance long imagin'd them the Spontaneous Productions of Putrifying Matter and undesigning Chance; Causes as little able to form an Animal as to create a World: but your Discoveries have Rectify'd that mistake, and prov'd them to proceed from Parents like themselves; after a constant tho' wonderful Order of Generation. / The pregnant Female, with unerring Sagacity, deposites her Eggs in some secure Concealment, where the Infant Brood may find as soon as hatch'd, immediate and proper Sustenance. Here they feed, and thrive, and cast off Several Skins, till arrived at full growth, every Species in a manner peculiar to itself, is chang'd into an Aurelia; whence in due Time a Moth or Butterfly issues forth, array'd with all the Glories of it's [sic] Parent. This too partakes the Joys of Love, lays Eggs, & dies. And thus one Race succeeds another in an uniform & unalterable manner. / The Care that has been taken to render These Designs Exact Representations of Nature, may I hope recommend Them to your Favour, and excuse the Presumption of Gentlemen, Your most Obedient humble Servant, Benj. Wilkes'.
Condition: Near fine.
Item number: 288