Book of the Week: Cabinet of Oriental Entomology

It’s bugs galore today as we feature the book The Cabinet of Oriental Entomology (1848), by J.O. Westwood. This delightful book is full of gorgeous illustrations of exotic insects. We’re picking out some of the illustrations that we particularly love and providing you with an excerpt of what the author had to say about the creatures shown. Enjoy!

View Full Size Image1) Papilio icarius

“Assam appears to be pre-eminently rich in the species of Papilio. A number of new species, from this region and the neighboring district of Sylhet, were figured in my ‘Arcana Entomologica,’ but none of them will bear comparison with the present insect, either for size or singularity of form, owing to the extraordinary elongation of the hind wings and the short dilated tails…Adopting the excellent system of nomenclature proposed with so much taste by Linnaeus, whereby the species of the modern genus Papilio were distinguished by the name of the famous heroes of antiquity, the present species…is named after Icarius, the son of Ebalus and Erigone; who, having been killed by some peasants of Greece, whose companions he had made drunk with wine, (a liquor till then unknown to them, and which from its effects they thought to be poison,) was transformed by Jupiter into a star, which was supposed by some persons to be identical with the celestial Bootes.”

2) Eucheirus macleaiiView Full Size Image
(Figure One: Male; Figure Two: Female)

“India and the adjacent islands offer to us a striking peculiarity in respect to the geographical distribution of the gigantic species of Lamellicorn beetles. Whilst the New World is inhabited by a great number of these fine insects…the tropical oriental regions can boast but of few; these however, are distinguished by their metallic or variegated appearance, of which their American brethren are destitute.”

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3) Figure One: Saturnia simla

“The female of this fine species has the fore wings comparatively larger and less hooked than in the males…I trust that, in consequence of Captain Boys’ arrival in England, I shall be enabled, in a subsequent article, to communicate an account of the early states of this insect.”

Figure Two: Saturnia assama

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4) Lower Figure: Actias maenae

“The accompanying figure of this very fine insect is copied from a specimen kindly communicated for representation by W.W. Saunders, Esq., F.L.S., which differs in some respects from Mr. Doubleday’s description of the species, recently published…This is certainly one of the finest of the recent additions to the list of oriental Lepidoptera; but I am informed that Dr. Boisduval possesses a species of this genus from Madagascar with much longer tails to the hind wings.”

Upper Figure: Leucophlebia lineata

“This beautiful insect appears to possess the characters of a distinct genus, in the classification of the exotic Nocturnal Heterocerous Lepidoptera; its elongated body and wings give it an analogy with some of the Sphingidae, as well as to some of the prominent moths, especially to Leiocampa Dictoea.”

View Full Size Image5) Figure One: Bacteria sarmentosa

“This species of walking-stick insect is longer than any which I have yet seen. It is represented of the natural size, but its full extent is here decreased by unnaturally bending back the fore legs (in order to bring them into the plates) which in the living insect are directed straight forwards…The insect described above is a female; I possess also another female, which I consider to belong to the same species, which is only 7 1/2 inches long, and agrees with it in all its characters, except that the 6th ventral segment has only a minute oval sulcated tubercule at its extremity.”

Figure Two: Bacteria virgea

“The proportions and general appearance of this insect indicate that it is most probably the male of the preceding. It is on this account that I have represented them both on one plate.”

Take some time to explore the other beautiful plates in this book. The insect world is certainly nothing if not colorful!

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Grace Costantino served as the Outreach and Communication Manager for the Biodiversity Heritage Library from 2014 to 2021. In this capacity, she developed and managed BHL's communication strategy, oversaw social media initiatives, and engaged with the public to excite audiences about the wealth of biodiversity heritage available in BHL. Prior to her role as Outreach and Communication Manager, Grace served as the Digital Collections Librarian for Smithsonian Libraries and as the Program Manager for BHL.