Thursday, April 30, 2015

An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of India

E. Donovan - An Epitome of the Natural History of the Insects of India (1800)

Open Library direct link 
Open Library main page

More natural history illustration - this title popped up in my Twitter feed or maybe not this particular one but something similar.  The title of this one suggests that there's a full version of the book but I haven't located a reference yet.  Still, it has these wonderful illustrations and minimal text that's mainly identification.

Donovan authored similar books on British quadrupeds, insects, fishes and shells along with a work on Chinese insects.  I'd love to find the two-volume Naturalist's Repository of Exotic Natural History (1823) but it doesn't appear to have been scanned.  Some of his work is in the Ruskin Museum but I can't find anything by Ruskin himself about it.  Donovan apparently has a brief walk-on in Patrick O'Brian's Reverse of the Medal.

Edward Donovan was born in Ireland but spent most of his life in London and rarely left it - another one of those intriguing people who decided to write about the world from their safe European home.  His books were apparently quite successful though on his death he "left a large family in destitute circumstances".  (According to the Gentlemen's Magazine for July 1837 - it might have been worse since the following obituary for a minor poet gives cause of death as "Died by the Visitation of God".)  There's not much biographical information available.  The longest treatment appears to be a couple of pages in Michael A. Salmon's The Aurelian Legacy: British Butterflies and their Collectors (2001) which notes his works were unsystematic and that surprisingly for an illustrator there's no known portrait.