Now Published! British Butterflies - A History in Books

The Entomologist's Library

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UK Butterflies


Since the publication of British Butterflies, A History in Books by David Dunbar in 2010 more books have come to light and which should be included along with a few errata.

Additions in chronological date order of publication

  • Among the Butterflies A Book for Young Collectors by Bennet George Johns published by Isbister and Company Limited in 1891. This little-known 196 page book is in a typical Victorian writing style regaling children with a commentary describing some fifty British butterflies. Interwoven is a dialogue between the author and enthusiastic young collectors, characters perhaps based on his own children, whilst roaming the countryside searching for butterflies. The frontispiece depicts Swallow-tails and are 8 line engraved plates each with several images. Johns, vicar of the Hampshire village, Woodmancote, studied and wrote about many aspects of natural history amongst which is this charming children’s book.
  • A Handbook of British Butterflies, Their Food Plants, Times of Appearance, and Favourite Places of Resort, by J R Charnley published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd in 1902. Paper covers, frontispiece plate, 31 printed pages and 6 pages of advertisements. Each species with brief information relating to - “1 The distribution and abundance of the species in question. 2. The food plants of the larva. 3. The time of appearance, and 4. The favourite places of resort.”
  • Ten Simple Ways to Help Bring Back Butterflies, 1982, by John Arden and Ian Eckersley published by Penlea Publications. A simple 20 page booklet intended to stimulate public interest in butterflies and create an awareness of the need for their conservation. This is followed by ideas of how this message can be put into practice but which was no more than a reflection of the work which was already being undertaken by established Societies and institutions.
  • Butterfly Plants for the Garden, 1995, Margaret Vickery, published by Butterfly Conservation. Compiled from 5 year’s worth of records from garden surveys giving the 200 most favoured butterfly nectar plants and the butterflies that favour them.
  • The butterflies of South Perthshire, by George Thomson. 8 page booklet describing 17 species, published by the Author in 1996.
  • The Butterflies of Gower, by Barry Stewart and Harold Grenfell. 20 pages, colour photos, distribution maps published by the Gower Society in 2000.
  • Benton Ted & Firmin Joe, The Butterflies of Colchester and North East Essex. 118 pages, 12 colour plates, perfect bound A5, card covers, published by the Colchester Natural History Society in 2002.
  • British and Irish Butterflies: The complete Identification, Field and Site Guide to the Species, Subspecies and Forms by Adrian M Riley and published by Brambleby Books in 2007. 352 pages, colour photos. This lavishly illustrated butterfly book is the first to cover all the adult forms found in the British Isles, including sub-species, written by a highly experienced lepidopterist. The clear directions and field tips, with added OS grid references, will assist you in finding the butterflies and also in identifying them in their habitats, guided by details of behaviour and morphology. The text is complemented with over 270 photographs of living specimens of all the taxa in full colour.
  • British Butterflies throughout the year, by Peter May published by The Amateur Entomologists’ Society Bug Club in 2007. A 30 page A5 size booklet written in somewhat grown-up language to encourage childrens’ interest in butterflies. In an age of conservation awareness it is curious that the illustrations are of set specimens of 56 different species of British butterflies. The text revives the concept of describing butterflies in the order of their appearance as adults on the wing during a season (see Newman and Leeds).
  • Butterflies (Facsimile Edition) by E B Ford, published by Harper Collins in 2008. A facsimile reprint of the original first edition (1945) being number 1 In the New Naturalist series. “Dr Ford, the author of this fascinating volume on butterflies, was an enthusiastic butterfly collector in his youth. He was not only a professional biologist of great distinction but also brought his wide knowledge of genetics and evolution to bear on the problems arising out of his collecting. Thus he was able to see butterflies both as an absorbing hobby and as part of the great panorama of biology. The resultant book is an outstanding contribution to Natural History in the best sense of the term. Natural History is not something inferior to science -- it is part of science, inviting an approach by way of field study. While, therefore, Dr Ford's book contains a somewhat higher proportion of scientific history and technical ideas than most books on Natural History, this for the great majority of amateurs will be a stimulus rather than an obstacle, and throughout the author has kept in mind the needs of butterfly collectors and of all those who love the country in the hope that it may increase their pleasure by widening the scope of their interests”
  • David Newland, Rob Still, David Tomlinson & Andy Swash, Britain’s Butterflies A Field Guide to the butterflies of Britain and Ireland, (2nd edition), published by WILDguides Ltd in 2010. A comprehensive photographic guide to the 59 breeding species and all former breeding and regular migrants. Extended, revised and updated with an extra 32 pages including hundreds of new photos to identify all life stages. Flexible covers designed to go in the pocket. This volume is supported by Butterfly Conservation in their efforts to protect the butterfly fauna of these islands, whilst at the same time, encouraging greater public awareness of their existence and beauty.
  • Butterflies of Britain & Ireland, A Field and Site , by Michael Easterbrook, published by A & C Black, publishers Ltd in 2010. 352 pages, over 300 colour photos, current distribution maps. This book covers all 58 British breeding species along with former residents and migrants. Over 240 localities are identified thus enabling butterfly watchers to find locations for all British butterflies.
  • The Butterfly Isles, A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals by Patrick Barkham published by Granta Books in 2010. 372 pages with 8 colour illustrations of British butterflies taken from Higgins & Riley and 8 pages of colour photos. The author travels the length and breadth of the British Isles in search of both native and migrant butterflies during the season of 2009. Whilst not the first to do so he carefully plans well-timed trips to critical sites to track down rare species and encounter the common ones a at the same time. Help is enlisted from a number of expert lepidopterists who know the more obscure habitats and embellish this travelogue with interesting knowledge, history and anecdotes about butterflies.
  • The State of Butterflies in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire by Jim Asher, Nick Bowles, David Redhead and Mike Wilkins. This book presents another milestone in our knowledge of butterflies in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. A detailed survey of butterflies across the three counties over the period 1995-2000, has made possible for the first time the identification of changes and trends since a similar survey completed almost a decade earlier (1987-1992). The changes reflect the damaging effects of further habitat loss and the warming effects of climate change. Habitat specialists are declining further-Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary appear to be extinct in the three counties and Marsh Fritillary is on the verge of extinction. In contrast, species at the limit of their European range in this area, such as Silver-spotted Skipper and Adonis Blue are faring better, as warmer climate improves their breeding success. The book, richly illustrated with colour photographs and graphics, describes the trends for all of our local butterfly species, what is happening to key habitats and the continuing impact of climate change.


  • Dustjacket. The first caption on the rear inside fold should read for front cover image “Purple Emperors from H N Humphreys’ Genera and Species of British Butterflies, 1859.
  • page 73, under Charles William Dale, first line delete “forty” and insert “fifty”
  • page 139, line 15 no ”p” in Thomson
  • page 147, line 8 should read “John Carter“(not David J Carter).

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Butterfly Conservation is the charity dedicated to the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats. Click here to visit the Butterfly Conservation website.