Written by
15 March 2023

Moses Harris book

The Aurelian: a natural history of English moths, and butterflies, together with the figures  of their transformations and of the plants on which they feed, drawn , engraved, and coloured from the natural objects by Moses Harris. New ed., with their systematic names, synonyms, and additional observations upon the habits of the species figured, by John O. Westwood, London :  Bohn, 1840.

The Aurelian book butterflies surround flowers in a vase

This engraving is thought to be a self-portrait of Moses Harris collecting butterflies in a wooded landscape. It is fascinating to see how well dressed he was when collecting as well as being able to see the equipment he used.

Moses Harris was born in 1730 and lived until circa 1788. He was interested in insects from a young age encouraged by an uncle who was a member of the Society of Aurelians, an early organisation for the study of insects. He was an accomplished illustrator depicting many species of butterflies and moths with their associated food plants.

The Aurelian book butterflies

The first edition of the Aurelian was published in 1766 but these images are from the later 4th edition in 1840 with nomenclature by John O. Westwood.

The Aurelian book butterflies

The title page of the 1840, new edition is beautifully decorated.

Journey through Zoological history

  • Common or spectacled caiman with South American false coral snake illustration by Maria Sybilla Merian
    25 November 2021

    Maria Merian and herpetology

    Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717) was a trailblazing entomologist, scientific traveller, artist and herpetologist. She is increasingly well known for her work on insects and their life-cycles but she also planned to publish a book on reptiles.

  • Teracolus bacchus detail from Plate 24 of the monograph of the genus by Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe, lithograph by M. Horman Fisher
    15 February 2015

    Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe

    She was the first woman to first author a paper in Proceedings of the Zoological Society, her sisters worked as valued colourists in many of the illustrated natural history books of the nineteenth century.

  • Thylacine
    6 September 2016

    The history of the Thylacine

    Thylacinus cynocephalus, more commonly referred to – the Tasmanian Tiger; was the “largest marsupial carnivore to have existed into modern times”.

  • Miriam Rothschild with two dogs
    8 March 2021

    Famous women in our history

    Famous women who have shape our history, from helping establish ZSL to pioneering the reptile house at London Zoo.

  • History of ZSL