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Butterfly People

An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World

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Description

With 32 pages of full-color inserts and black-and-white illustrations throughout.

From one of our most highly regarded historians, here is an original and engrossing chronicle of nineteenth-century America’s infatuation with butterflies, and the story of the naturalists who unveiled the mysteries of their existence.
 
A product of William Leach’s lifelong love of butterflies, this engaging and elegantly illustrated history shows how Americans from all walks of life passionately pursued butterflies, and how through their discoveries and observations they transformed the character of natural history. Leach focuses on the correspondence and scientific writings of half a dozen pioneering lepidopterists who traveled across the country and throughout the world, collecting and studying unknown and exotic species. In a book as full of life as the subjects themselves and foregrounding a collecting culture now on the brink of vanishing, Leach reveals how the beauty of butterflies led Americans into a deeper understanding of the natural world. He shows, too, that the country’s enthusiasm for butterflies occurred at the very moment that another form of beauty—the technological and industrial objects being displayed at world’s fairs and commercial shows—was emerging, and that Americans’ attraction to this new beauty would eventually, and at great cost, take precedence over nature in general and butterflies in particular.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jan 21, 2013 – National Book Award–finalist and Columbia University historian Leach (Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture) offers a mesmerizing and comprehensive history of butterfly collection in America, and this pastime’s relation to the nation’s landscape, ideologies, and industry. The individuals profiled—including William Henry Edwards, Samuel Scudder, Herman Strecker, Augustus Grote—are men grappling with the great ideas of the modern age: evolution, the expansion of the industrial age, and the rise of the market economy, humans’ relationship with nature, and beauty. This is a deep dive into what, at first glance, seems an esoteric subject, but after further perusal reveals itself as an essential component of this nation’s intellectual history. Fully informative on all things lepidoptera, this work embodies that 19th-century synthesis of science and art, while staying firmly grounded as a history of its namesake, as the Butterfly People become as rare as their most highly prized specimens. It is not just Edwards who “carried within him the tension at the heart of the American experience, from the colonial period onward, between extraction and adoration, artifactual beauty and natural beauty, commerce and science,” for Leach asks the reader to consider all these things as well—their loss and triumph—and what might be gained in the reflection.
Butterfly People
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  • $14.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Apr 09, 2013
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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