Butterfly Images of the Public Domain

And just like that our caterpillars have all grown up and metamorphized into beautiful butterflies. Let’s check out some 19th century butterfly images.

The Genera of Diurnal Lepidoptera (1846)

Our first book’s title doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The Genera of Diurnal Lepidoptera: Comprising Their Generic Characters, a Notice of Their Habits and Transformations, and a Catalogue of the Species of Each Genus (1846) is a book on butterflies. A twenty five word long title and authors Edward Doubleday and John Obadiah Westwood couldn’t even use the word butterflies.

It’s all good though, because the illustrations by William Chapman Hewitson (1806-1878) are GORGEOUS. We’re lucky to be able to see these too, because William originally wasn’t even an illustrator. He actually worked as a land surveyor for the London and Birmingham Railway. It was only when he received a large inheritance that he was able to leave his profession and focus completely on his interests. For Hewitson, these interests were collecting and illustrating butterflies. His butterfly collection was one of the finest of the time, and his illustrations speak for themselves.

Hewitson arranged most of his butterfly illustrations into organic clusters of similar looking species. For the most part we didn’t rotate the butterflies when we removed the backgrounds because the arrangements are so nice. We put 16 of the images together into a collection.

Blue Diadem, Hestina Nama and Yellow Kaiser Butterflies

Histoire naturelle des lépidoptères exotiques (1835)

Our second share-worthy discovery is a French book of exotic butterflies: Histoire naturelle des lépidoptères exotiques (1835). The illustrator of these gorgeously vibrant butterflies was Hippolyte Louis Emile Pauquet (1797-1871). Hippolyte and his younger brother Polydore were celebrated illustrators, with subjects ranging from naturalist illustrations of birds and butterflies to historical costume imagery.

If you’d like to see the book in its entirety it is available here. Additionally, we have completed a collection of 36 butterfly images, including many favorites from Histoire naturelle.

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