Harper Collins

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The Titles


Butterflies of Britain and Europe A Photo Guide, by Michael Chinery
Butterflies of Britain and Europe, text by Tom Tolman illustrated by Richard Lewington
Nightmares of Nature, by Richard Matthews
Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe, by
Insects of Britain and and Northern Europe, by Michael Chinery
Insects of Britain and Western Europe, by Michael Chinery
Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe, by H. Hofmann and T. Marktanner
Gem Guides

The Reviews

Butterflies of Britain and Europe

A Photo Guide, by Michael Chinery

ISBN = Insects = 0 00 220059 7
Price = £17.99.
Published 1997
Review written = 23/Feb/1999
652 pages
206 colour plates

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Butterflies of Britain and Europe

text by Tom Tolman illustrated by Richard Lewington

ISBN = Insects = 0 00 219992 0
Price = £17.99.
Published 1997
Review written = 15/Feb/1998
320 pages
104 colour plates

With this new field guide Collins have excelled themselves, and this will be the definitive field guide to butterflies of Britain and Europe for many years to come. Following on from, and updating 'Higgins and Riley' it also benefits from the immaculate artistry of Richard Lewington, giving it a place of its own ahead of the field.

The plates are grouped together in the centre of the book, the accepted format these days and an improvement on 'Higgins and Riley', making finding the correct illustration far easier. The work illustrates and describes 440 species and numerous subspecies including over 2000 illustrations. The plates pass you quietly onto the text which is arranged in the following order:- Range; Distribution (text plus a small inset map); Description and Variation; Flight Period; Habitat; Life History. The same textual information is also supplied for subspecies in most cases. The 'Life History' data is unfortunately often brief, and sometimes even LHP data is missing, reflecting the fact that even in this most studied group of insects information is often scarce.

All in all, the combination of Tom's accurate data and Richard's superb drawings make this simply the best field guide of its kind and a must for all lepidopterists and amateur entomologists in Europe (of which Britain is actually a part I believe). An excellent work. Highly Recommended

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Gem Guides


Butterflies and Moths, photo guide, by M. Chinery
and
Insects by M. Chinery

ISBN = B and M = 0 00 470757 5
ISBN = Insects = 0 00 458818 5
Price = £3.99 each.
Published = B and M =1995 and Insects = 1986
Review written = 18/Feb/1997

Collins produce quite a number of field and photo guides to various creatures for Britain and Europe, and even for arthropods they produce a range of books aimed at readers of varying levels of interest and different degrees of competence. They are all among the best of their categories and it is up to you to decide what you want and how much you are willing to spend. Guides to the Butterflies/and or Moths and to Insects in general of Britain and Europe are the commonest of books on insects available and Collins produce them at 3 different levels. Cheapest and smallest are the Gem guides, these are 80 X120 mm size and thus fits easily into the pocket, the Butterflies and Moths version is a photo guide, and contains 256 pages covering 117 Butterflies and a 121 of the commoner Moths, and costs £3.99. The Insects version is based on paintings which I personally prefer, and is 240 pages long covering 400 insects (but no Butterflies and Moths) Obviously at this price and size they are not brilliant but most of the photos are OK colour wise (except the Large Tortoiseshell) though you only get 1 image of each Butterfly and some of these are side views with the wings closed. However they will allow you to identify at least most of the Butterflies and a few of the commoner moths you will meet in the UK but I wouldn't want to rely on it in Europe. Keep in mind that there are 20 000 species of insect in Britain and another 40 000 in Europe, though many of these can not be identified to species without a key and a microscope.

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Nature and Wild Guides

Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe by H. Hofmann and T. Marktanner

ISBN = 0 00 220029 5
Price = £6.99
Published = 1995
Review written = 18/Feb/1997

Next step up from this are the 'Nature Guides' and 'Wild Guides', I haven't seen a 'Wild Guide' so cannot comment on how they differ from the 'Nature Guides'. Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe, Nature Guide, is about twice the size of the Gem Guides, 180 X 100 mm and comes with plastic protector. It contains 158 pages delineating 115 Butterflies and 46 Moths, the pictures are photos and most of the Fritillaries have too much orange in them for my liking, but they are easier on the eye and easier to use than the Gem Guides, and also contain more information. With a colour coded key for easy identification in the field and a few pages on ecology and conservation, they are pretty good value for the casual walker or holiday maker £6.99

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Pocket and Field Guides

If you have anything more than the most casual of interest in insects you will want to go for one or more of the following to start with.


Insects of Britain and Western Europe

by Michael Chinery,

ISBN = 0 00 219137 7
Price = £12.99
Published = 1986
Review written = 18/Feb/1997
320 pages
160 colour plates

This is an excellent example of what a field guide can be. It contains within its 318 pages paintings and accompanying text for over 2 000 insects. The illustrations by such renowned artists as Richard Lewington and Stephen Falk and are exceedingly accurate, (much better than photos in my opinion) and make identification of the commoner insects a pleasure, even now this is my field guide and travels everywhere with me. It might be worth adding that they are well bound, mine has been in and out of bags and pockets all over Britain and parts of Europe and is still standing up well. It is particularly good on the smaller orders like Dragonflies and Grasshoppers. If you can only afford one book and are more interested in identifying the insects rather than learning about entomology at the same time, then at this is the book to go for. Excellent value at £12.99.
Highly Recommended

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Insects of Britain and and Northern Europe 3rd Ed.

by M. Chinery,

ISBN = 0 00 219918 1
Price = £16.99
Published = 1993
Review written = 18/Feb/1997
320 pages
60 colour plates

This is the perfect counter-point to the above, it is really a 320 page treatise on European entomology. Though it contains far fewer illustrations, this is well compensated for br the excellent quality of the text. A 30 page introduction to insects in general is followed by a series of introductions to each of the orders that occur in Europe, including keys to superfamily and then to family level in many cases. Even the Collembola (Springtails) get nearly 3 pages which is more than you can find in most more expensive textbooks. The keys are excellently constructed, the only down side is the illustrations which are not as good as in the above. I know many people who like me own a copy of both of these, the Pocket Guide comes out into the field and the Field Guide, in hardback remains at home to read at leisure later and to help sort out those problems that require a little more than just pictures. If you find that you want to go further than either of these two it is time to start looking for books which deal with only one group or part of a group, by now you know you are seriously hooked and will be wanting to add a small microscope to your hand lens and notebook. At £16.99. an excellent value present for yourself or anyone else.
Highly Recommended

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Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe

by Michael J. Roberts,

ISBN = 0 00 218891 5
Price = £16.99
Published = 1995
Review written = 18/Feb/1997
383 pages
32 colour plates

This is the spider equivalent of the above and is unusual in that I have not yet heard anyone say anything against it. More competent and cheaper than anything comparable on the market at the moment this is The Book on Spiders for anyone with an interest in its remit, who doesn't have £160.00 to spend on the complete spiders of Britain and Ireland by the same author. Within its 380 pages it contains 288 excellent colour illustrations, and over 1 500 b/w drawings which include epigyne and palpal illustrations of 450 of the larger species as well as pictorial keys to family and and genus. Alongside these is a comprehensive text description of each species including information on habitat and distribution. Before all of this is a 75 page introduction to the biology of spiders including sections on observing, catching, identifying and preserving specimens. All in all an essential book for all people interested in spiders as well as for libraries schools and universities.
Highly Recommended

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Nightmares of Nature

by Richard Matthews

ISBN = 0 00 220015 5
Price = £14.95
Published = 1995
Review written = 18/Feb/1997

This book is not the exploration of ghastlier aspects of nature that I was expecting, such as praying mantids and spiders eating their mates and wasps paralyzing their prey so that it can be slowly eaten alive by their larvae. Rather it is the a graphic and explicit investigation into the animals that inspire nightmares in man because of what they do to us, most of it is concerned with killers. I could say this is merely a descent into that awful fascination most humans have with the ghastly fatal and near fatal things that happen to other people, an obsession with horror. But that would not do it justice, it contains that for sure but it also contains a lot of intelligent rationalization and discussion of both the causes of man eating big cats and our fear of slugs and spiders. To be honest insects and other inverts don't figure very strongly in this fast paced and well written journey through the man killers of the world but if you are afflicted with a desire for formication this book will be value for money. Did you know that Elephants kill 4 times as many people in India as Tigers or that the most dangerous animal in the USA besides ourselves is the Honey Bee. It is the book which follows up the BBC series, but as I choose not to own a TV I can not comment on how well it correlates, my personal experience is that books are more fun anyway. This is a fun book with a good dose of intelligent commentary, and if you enjoy it you may also want to visit Spineless Wonders by Richard Conniff
Recommended.

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