When I became aware of this book, I became excited immediately. Birdwing butterflies have always been my favorite type of Lepidoptera, both for their amazing colors and their size. Though I am a fan of both D’Abrera’s book “Birdwing Butterflies of the World” and the series of books “A Monograph of the Birdwing Butterflies” by J. Haugum and A.M. Low, it seemed, sight-unseen, that this release would be the ultimate guide to these incredible insects.
I also knew that this was a two-book set but was shocked when it arrived and the box said that the weight was seventeen pounds! Volume one is 831 pages long and volume two is 829 pages. From the website it says: The most complete reference book about Birdwing Butterflies to date. Data on specimens mainly from the Jean-Pierre Sclavo and the Insectarium de Montréal (Deslisle Bequest) collections, but also from 50 of the most important reference collections of Birdwing Butterflies in the world. Male and female are illustrated life size, upper and underside in full colour, with their range of individual variations. Also with superb photographs of adults in the wild, early stages, host-plants and habitats. 11 identification keys. Genus Ornithoptera (subgenera Schoenbergia, Straatmana, Ornithoptera & Aetheoptera), 11 species, 27 subspecies, 57 local forms, 235 forms (75 new), 156 aberrations, 44 gynandromorphs, 52 combinations of hybrids (187 specimens).
Let me talk about the presentation first. Both huge volumes come in a nice slipcase, which will give the books extra support when they are sitting on the bookshelf. For anyone that has owned volumes of this size, you know that if the book rests uneven at all, the spine tends to weaken. That is definitely not something that you want to happen to this collection. The books themselves are heavy duty, with the knowledge that most readers would use them as reference, helping to identify their own specimens. This will require the books to be laid out flat and I am confident that the spines will hold up to this. This set is made to last.
Next I would like to discuss the photographs in this book, one of the main selling points. All species are shown, full size, illustrating both male and females and they are crystal-clear. Then, with each species, morphological variations are shown, but in reduced scale. Despite this, the images are very clear and help immensely with identification. Underwings of all species are also shown. In some rare cases, low-resolution pictures are enlarged, causing the image to appear blurry and pixelated. Thankfully this does not happen a lot and in these cases it is the only image available. There are also many pictures showing all of the life cycles of many species in nature. These vary from very clear to slightly out of focus but it does not detract from the image. Gynandromorphs, variations of the same species from different localities, hybrids and oddities are also shown extensively.
The text in this book is also fantastic, with all data as up to date as can be expected. This is actually one of those books, that if you have a love of birdwing butterflies, you could actually read from cover-to-cover as the information is fascinating. Though expensive, I cannot recommend this book enough. It is well worth it and it is a book that you will come back to time and time again. To order your own copy, just go to Pemberley Books HERE.