Exceedingly rare double-suite copy of a rare and splendid work on dragonflies

Charpentier, T. de

Libellulinae Europaeae, descriptae ac depictae a Toussaint de Charpentier. Cum tabulis XLVIII coloratis.

Published 1840
Item ID 76828

excl. VAT

Leipzig, Leopold Voss, 1840. Large 4to (30.1 x 23.0 cm). Title page, [i], 180, [i] pp.; 94 engraved plates (double suite) of which 46 finely hand-coloured (as intended). Beautiful contemporary-style gilt-bordered half calf over marbled boards. Spine with raised, gilt-rolled bands; compartments with gilt ornamental bands, vignettes and title. Marbled endpapers. All edges gilt.

A wonderful work by the German geologist and entomologist Toussaint de Charpentier (1779-1847) in an unrecorded double suite state, finely and accurately hand-coloured, and plain. The latter suite to show the finer, engraved details of the external anatomy. This work on Odonata (dragonflies) is even more rare than the author's similar-titled work on Orthoptera, and is one of the most attractive and sought-after works on dragonflies ever. The title suggests that all 48 plates should be coloured (as suggested by, e.g., Hagen), however, this is entirely incorrect; two plates, one showing fossils, and one with a schematic drawing, are always plain, and hence not included twice. After Charpentier's untimely death, his collections and unfinished manuscripts were acquired by the Zoological Museum of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). We could not find any evidence that they survived the devastating bombardments of Königsberg in August 1944, when the British Royal Airforce destroyed practically the whole city, including the Museum. According to Horn and Kahle, part of his "Neuroptera" collection went to the natural history museum of Breslau (now Wrocław), which lost about half its collection in WWII - currently their website does not list Charpentier material. Charpentier published further works on geology and mining. He was editor of the second edition (1829-1830) of Esper's milestone work on Lepidoptera, adding an index, and making it far more useful for naturalists than the book's first, 18th-century edition. Text pages partly spotted, the title page more so, but all the plates clean. In all an excellent and possibly unique copy. The fine binding reflects its quality. Hagen I, p. 122; Horn and Kahle, Über entomologische Sammlungen, p. 40; Horn-Schenkling, 3367; Nissen ZBI, 874.

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