Small Copper Butterfly

There’s a deep orange butterfly flying quickly across the fields in a park in Rome. It’s a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas:

Small Copper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Nothing else is that colour of orange.

Back home I’m leafing through my favourite 30 pence purchase: Edmund Sandars’ A Butterfly Book for the Pocket from 1939:

Small Copper - Edmund Sandars - The Hall of Einar

Small Copper - Edmund Sandars - The Hall of Einar

“Open ground, fields, downs, rough ground, banks, lanes, heaths and sandhills.”

It also appears in the Rev. F.O. Morris’s 1853 classic A History of British Butterflies here:

“It is an exceedingly elegant object on the wing”

Here’s the colour plate which accompanies it:

Small Copper Butterfly in Rev F. O. Morris's British Butterflies - The Hall of Einar

I haven’t got a copy of this book. I’d certainly give more than 30 pence for it; it’s an exceedingly elegant object.

It’s a glorious November day in Rome and there are blue skies with a single white cloud which appears to be permanently obscuring the sun. The butterflies are busy feeding on nectar:

Small Copper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The Small Copper is also in The Papilios of Great Britain, Systematically Arranged, Accurately Engraved and Painted from Nature by W Lewin from 1795:

“This is a common fly, and to be met with in almost every place that grass grows.”

Small Copper - W Lewin - The Papilios of Great Britain - The Hall of Einar

It’s also in John Berkenhout’s 1769 Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain and Ireland (Vol.1 Animal Kingdom) here. He calls it the Small Golden Black-Spotted Butterfly:

Small Copper in John Berkenhout's Outlines of the Natural History of Great Britain - The Hall of Einar

The world has changed utterly for human beings since that time and yet I’m standing here with the same sense of wonder and delight as those enthusiasts, artists and authors did hundreds of years ago:

Small Copper - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

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