|J. B. S. Haldane is alleged to have remarked that, among the various deductions a person might make from close examination of nature, one is that God had "an inordinate fondness for beetles." That may be so. It requires less by way of theological speculativeness to note that Thomas Martyn certainly had a fondness for beetles; in The
English entomologist that fondness is on continuous
display. This copy of Martyn's book once belonged to William Beckford of Fonthill, author of the early English Gothic novel Vathek (i.e.,
An Arabian tale, from an unpublished manuscript, with notes critical
and explanatory, London, 1786) and a great English collector
of books and other objects. Seymour De Ricci commented that Beckford collected
not so much a
library as "a cabinet of bibliographical rarities and freaks, each one a gem of its kind": a description particularly apt for his copy of Martyn. To the book have been added forty-two vellum leaves of original gouache paintings of the insects that are Martyn's subject, each enclosed in a gold-leaf frame (like the English and French title-pages). An oval watercolor portrait of the artist-author appears on the frontispiece. The book fetched seventeen guineas at the May 1817 Fonthill sale, and eventually reached Penn with the assistance of the Friends of the Library and Mrs. John Frederick Lewis, Jr.
|Thomas Martyn, fl. 1760-1816.
The English entomologist, exhibiting all
the coleopterous insects found in England: including upwards of 500 different
species the figures of which have never before been given to the public, the whole accurately
drawn & painted after nature / arranged and named according to the
Linnean system by Thomas Martyn at his Academy for illustrating and painting
natural history. London: From the Shakespeare Press,
by W. Bulmer & co., 1792. Folio QL575.M2.1792.