Sir Thomas Mouffet, Butterfly-man of 17thC England.
He that beholds the forms, clothing, elegancy, and rich habits of the Butterflies, how can he choose but admire the bountiful God…Author and giver of so rich treasure? (Mouffet 974)
Mouffet’s Insectorum Theatrum (Latin, 1634) was the premier compilation of some 17 butterflies native to 17thC England. These insects were not given by Mouffet scientific (taxonomilogical) names, per se, as in the work of 18thC Swedish taxonomist, Carl Linnaeus, but rather they are described and enumerated by Mouffet. But for the primitive woodcut illustrations which grace this 1634 text, Mouffet’s butterflies would have been difficult to identify from (what today’s entomologists would consider) Mouffet’s fanciful and obscure glosses on the physical properties of these enchanting creatures. Mouffet, incidentally, is reputed to have been the father of ‘Little Miss Muffet’, famous in nursery-rhyme literature for an alarming encounter with a spider.
Title-page, Insectorum Theatrum by Sir Thomas Mouffet
(1634; text in Latin)
From Latin facsimile edition, published by George Thomson (Lochmaben, Scotland, 2000).
Mulvihill Collection, gift of John B. Heppner, March 2001. Copy 31 of 500 copies.
Sample Page, Insectorum Theatrum by Sir Thomas Mouffet
(1634; English-language version, 1658),
Volume III in the History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents and Insects
by Edward Topsell & Conrad Gesner. 3 folio volumes (NY: Da Capo, 1967), 586 pages, illustrated, cloth.
Mulvihill Collection. (This 3-vol set purchased from Sullivan Gross Ltd., Santa Barbara, CA., October, 2000)