29 October 2006

An outstanding book about insects by Bert Brunet

Australian Insects: A Natural History is an outstanding book by one of the greats in the history of great naturalists: Bert Brunet. This is not another coffee table picturebook with no real heart, but an exceptional production. The well-written, informative text (about much more than particular insects' lives) exudes patient observation, insatiable curiosity, and a wish to share the joy of discovery, even to the point of giving photography advice. The layout is clean and easy to access. The choice of insects shown is a pleasure whether they are newcomers to your greymatter bank, or already favourites such as the wattle-pig weevil is to me, and the breathtakingly beautiful greengrocer cicada is to many.

Although the cover photo is not by Bert Brunet, every one of the best pictures in this extraordinary book is. The key to the portraits' quality is his philosophy that one should see them alive, in their environment, doing what they do. Hoo-bloody-ray!

For an example, a female mottled cup moth (Doratifera vulnerans) is shown, freshly emerged from its artpiece of a cocoon (and the moth looks rather Louis xiv-ishly hirsute) across the page from a jawstretcher of a caterpillar of same, captioned in part: "The brightly coloured larva resembles a sea anemone, and is armed with expansible tufts of sharp stinging spines (setae), which the caterpillar is not shy to use if handled. These give a painful sting to the assailant."
His caterpillars pictures alone are worth the price of the book, if you only want to gawk.

Australian Insects: A Natural History by Bert Brunet gets my highest-level recommendation, no matter where you live or how young or old, ignorant or knowledgeable you are. (And no, I don't know Bert Brunet or anyone associated with this book.)

Two listings that I found for it:

Australia: The Map Market

UK: NHBS Environment Bookstore

Finally, I was very pleased to see that The Insectarium of Victoria library lists this book just above another of my favourites: Life Stories of Australian Insects by Mabel N. Brewster, Agnes A. Brewster, and Naomi Crouch, published in 1946, for schoolchildren—and school might be worth going to if . . . (but that is another subject).

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