Sunday, May 22, 2016

JEAN-HENRI FABRE: THE HOMER OF THE INSECT WORLD

MASON-WASP
E.J. DETMOLD
FROM FABRE'S BOOK OF INSECTS

This week's arts and culture piece is on the wonderful self-taught French scientist and insect lover: Jean-Henri Fabre.

Here's how it begins:

Jean-Henri Fabre’s “Book of Insects” is a 1921 classic, with beautiful, tissue-paper-protected color plates by E. J. Detmold.

If you can get your hands on a copy (I checked mine out from the L.A. Public Library), you’ll discover a whole wondrous world. The glow worm, the grub, the locust, the mason-wasp — all your favorite insect pals are here.

Fabre (1823-1915) was an ardent Catholic with a deep sense of God’s design. In the opening chapter, he tells of coming upon the nest as a boy of a “lovely bird” that held six eggs of a “magnificent azure blue, very bright.” Thinking to carry one home as a trophy, he “walked carefully home, carrying my blue egg on a bed of moss.”

He met a priest.

“Ah,” said he. “A Saxicola’s egg. Where did you get it?”

I told him the whole story. “I shall go back for the others,” I said, “when the young birds have got their quill-feathers.”

“Oh, but you mustn’t do that!” cried the priest. “You mustn’t be so cruel as to rob the poor mother of all her little birds. Be a good boy, now, and promise not to touch the nest.”


READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

2 comments:

  1. Hello Heather - that's a nice piece. I have a recommendation for natural history book. Portrait of a Wilderness by Guy Mountfort being an account of an ornithological expedition to the Coto Donana in Spain's Andalucia in the 1950s. My copy is inscribed to me by my mother in 1958 for Christmas. The book also has a chapter and photos of the pilgrimmage to Our Lady of The Dew in El Rocio. Beautifully written and illustrated - it's the sort of book I count among my ten most cherished. I'm sure it would be available from the same library the bug book came from.

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    1. Darn, Portrait of a Wilderness sounds wonderful but neither the LA Public Library, nor the Pasadena/Glendale carry it. And a used copy is 187 bucks on Amazon! Mother knew best...hang onto that copy she gave you...thanks so much, Stephen.

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