Little Bug Books

Did you know that the Academy’s Library is the official repository for the holdings of the American Entomological Society (AES)? As a result of the strong ties between the Academy and the AES (since its founding in 1859), researchers can access both collections in one location.

Among the AES titles are two treasures. The first, Insekten-Cabinet nach der Natur gezeichnet und gestochen (or, Insect cabinet, drawn and engraved from nature), created during 1791 and 1792, contains 100 engravings from copperplate, which were printed in black and white and then colored individually by hand. German engraver Jakob Sturm created, paid for, and published this tiny work (measuring 3.5 by 4.75 inches) in a limited run, and the work was well received by entomologists and the public.

The second title, Faunae insectorum Germanicae initia: oder Deutschlands insekten (in English, Elements of the German insect fauna), was published between 1796 and 1844. The text is by Georg Wolfgang Franz Panzer (1755–1829), a German physician and entomologist. Jakob Sturm served as engraver and colorist.

Upon publication and for decades afterwards, this title was considered one of the most comprehensive entomological works. It consists of 190 parts in 62 volumes, arranged systematically. The tiny volumes (4.25 by 6 inches) contain a wealth of information and detailed drawings.

Panzer and Sturm met by chance when engraver Johann Sturm sent his son and apprentice, Jakob, to deliver a copperplate engraving of insects for an upcoming book. The overseer rejected it, demanding that Jakob Sturm quickly produce a replacement. As Panzer had the specimens, Sturm was directed to work with him. The new plate was superior, and Panzer was impressed with the young engraver.

Panzer envisioned a work for which he would write the scientific text while Sturm engraved the corresponding plates. Faunae insectorum started publication around 1796, continuing for approximately 20 years. At Panzer’s death, 110 of 190 parts were complete. German entomologist G.A.W. Herrich-Schäffer finished the remaining text.

Insekten-Cabinet and Faunae insectorum were meant to be used, affordable, and portable. Today they
look as fresh as when first published. The colors are vibrant, the lines are clear, and the identifying information is complete.

A typical plate has an image, along with specific characteristics such as the antenna. Many plates have a drawing comparing male and female. The detail is exact, and both Insekten-Cabinet and Faunae insectorum would hold their own if compared to modern field guides, since many of the insects shown are life-sized.

In addition to being the only library in the United States to hold Insekten- Cabinet, the Academy Library is one of only a few libraries worldwide with the entire set of Faunae Insectorum. These works are now among the rare treasures of the bibliographic universe.

By Bridget Clancy, Cataloging and Serials Librarian

Originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of Academy Frontiers, the member magazine of the Academy of Natural Sciences.

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