A tome of butterflies

A day at Hayloft can be summed up in the word: whirlwind.

Some days, it goes by in a total flash. No sooner do we sit down in the morning than it’s lunchtime; we’ve been madly cataloguing all morning with Rodney’s team – he picked Blythe up at her door at 7:15am; she might have had time to pick up some donuts for them before departure, if he let her. Items are moving back and forth, photos are being taken, conditions chimed out and jotted down in the computer. Or the phones were ringing all day off the hook, and people were streaming in to check out the warehouse – a lovely happening. Or we were sorting through boxes of inventory that just came in – books, for example – and figuring out which should be put in our upcoming tag sale (Columbus Day Weekend, or whatever we’re calling it these days – mark your calendars).  

A day at Hayloft is also, sometimes, a little bit life-changing. Upon a wander around the warehouse, on the stumble upon a particularly intriguing find, there are moments when time slows down a little. The other day, I found the following book from the Musée Entomologique of Paris from 1877. It is an entire book on butterflies, in French, the second volume (“tome,” in French, which I appreciate) of a number of volumes on insects published by the museum, and a gathering of buggies local and foreign therein: “publiée par une reunion d’entomoogistes français et étrangers,” it says. The entire collection is an “Histoire Iconographique des Insectes.” We only seem to have this lovely leather-bound section. It has an inscription I can’t quite make out dating to 1878, and its illustrations are exquisite.



I will translate the first bit for you, and then I will let you appreciate the visuals for yourselves:

“To Mr. Alfred V

You tell me, my dear friend, that the sight of my collection of butterflies delighted you and created in you the desire to give yourself over to the study of Entomology. You want, you say, not only to collect the insects that inhabit our fields and our woods, but furthermore to study their mannerisms and their organization, and you ask me to guide you in this study to which you are a complete stranger. I will do it gladly, and I will tell you that in fact the true naturalist is not the one who contents himself to choose insect that are well aligned in boxes and to accompany them with labels that carry their name in a Latin that is more or less barbarian, but really the one who observes the manners of these little animals, who studies their organization, their forms, their metamorphoses, the role that they play in nature, etc. The one who comprehends, through this process, science, always finds within it new subjects of contemplation, new joys.”


[Look out for this book in one of our upcoming sales! Maybe you'll even see it at our tag sale... who knows?]



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