Etching by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1646
Recently cataloged: Muscarum scarabeorum vermiumque varie figure & formae / omnes primo ad uiuum coloribus depictae & ex Collectione Arundelian a Wenceslao Hollar aqua forti aeri insculptae (Antwerp, 1646) QL543.H65 1646

These 12 lovely little etchings of “flies, beetles, and worms” are over 350 years old, but look as crisp as when they were printed. The thin paper carries some foxing (the small brown spots that appear with age), and at some point in the past they were mounted onto newer leaves and bound. They are the work of Wenceslas Hollar (1607-1677) who, though born in Prague, lived and worked primarily in England. He may perhaps be best known for his views of London, especially those before and after the Great Fire of 1666.

The most complete guide to Hollar’s etchings is A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslas Hollar, 1607-1677 by Richard Pennington (Cambridge University Press, 2002). In that bibliography, these 12 plates are numbered 2164 through 2175, and we can tell from the description that our copies are from the earliest known “state” since they do not have numbers, which were apparently added to the plates later.

Our copy was a gift to the college from Charles M. Pratt, class of 1879, along with his large collection of other lepidoptera books. This particular volume also has a calling card laid in from “Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Folger” with a note written on the back which reads “1646 strikes us as an early date for butterfly engravings – Sept. 30, 1906,” implying that this copy may have been a gift to Pratt from the Folgers.


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