'Greatest entomological rarity' by De Clerck flutters into Paris book sale

One of the greatest rarities among entomological books is going under the hammer at Artcurial in Paris next Monday, May 9.

The work, entitled Icones insectorum rariorum cum nominibus eorum trivialibus, is by the Swedish entomologist and arachnologist Carl Alexander Clerck (1709-1765).

Clerck was known for drawing his subjects with great precision - and not just any old butterflies, but also the beautiful Swedish tropical butterflies from the collection of Queen Louisa Ulrika.

His depictions of Queen Louisa's collection are included in among 55 sheets which were delicately coloured by artists CM Rising, Erik Borg and JA Alexander. Some butterflies are shown in their actual size

This title is not only rare but examples have previously appeared on the markets with variations in their titles, the layouts of their plates, and with additional complete and incomplete works.


De Clerck personally oversaw the production of 10 copies of 'Icones insectorum...' before his death in 1765

During the book's production, De Clerck had reserved from himself the task of painting the book's drawings and distributing them among the public. Unfortunately, he died not long after the project was undertaken.

Today, it is understood that he completed 10 books before his death.

Mr Chamberlain Jennings acquired this copy from the few examples held by Mr De Clerck's heirs in Paris in 1768.

According to Artcurial's lot notes: "It is possible to imagine that this is the Chamberlain Jennings copy, and that this volume is one of the copies made by [De Clerck] in France." That said, it is not known for sure.

The great English bookseller EP Goldschmidt, who described a similar copy in its definitive catalogue, stated that only 50 copies of the book were ever printed.

Whether or not this is one of the De Clerck originals, it remains an exceptionally rare and highly important entomological artefact, and a must-see for interested collectors and investors.

The work is estimated at €18,000-20,000.


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