Episodes of Insect Life: First, Second, and Third Series
by "Acheta Domestica"; [Budgen, L.M.]
London: Reeve, Bentham, and Reeve, King William Street, Strand, 1851. First edition of all three volumes of these lyrical lectures on entomology, fantastically illustrated with insects enacting various scenes of Victorian life. The early nineteenth century saw a vogue for works of popular science, inspired by Enlightenment ideals and epitomized by the public lectures of great scientist-showmen like Humphrey Davy. Little is known about author L.M. Budgen, whose scientific contributions combine poetry, prose, fairy tale, and comic illustration. She teaches readers about the world of insects by way of human society, depicting a butterfly as a "painted lady," a bee practicing "Apian Phreno-Magnetism," and a cricket in the guise of an exhausted author. (Budgen's pen name, "Acheta Domestica," is the Latin name for the common house cricket.) Of particular note are the vignette headpieces at the start of each chapter, featuring exquisitely detailed hand coloring. A complete set of this whimsical series, in the iconic pictorial cloth bindings, very scarce in such fine condition. Three octavo volumes, original blue pictorial cloth with an elaborate gilt design of a cricket lecturing to a group of insects on both boards, pale yellow endpapers, all edges gilt. Half titles present. Hand-colored frontispiece in each volume, dancing insect vignette to title pages, hand-colored vignette headpiece and anthropomorphized insect tailpiece to each chapter. Ink ownership inscription to front free endpaper of Series II and III, small printed monogram bookplate "GOM" affixed to front pastedown of all three volumes, Westleys & Co. binder's ticket to lower pastedown of Series I and III. Only a hint of bumping to corners.
(Inventory #: 1001551)
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