Although John Obadiah Westwood (1805-1893) completed a law degree, he pursued a very successful career based around his interests in entomology and archaeology.
He was a prolific scientific author and a respected illustrator, well known both for his detailed insect drawings and for his reproductions of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval manuscript illuminations.
Westwood helped found the Entomological Society and was an active member of the Linnean Society where he encounted Charles Darwin. Although he never subscribed to the Theory of Evolution because of his devout Christian beliefs, Westwood nonetheless retained great respect for Darwin's scientific acumen.
In the wealthy Frederick Hope, Westwood had an enthusiastic patron whose vast insect collection Westwood catalogued and eventually curated after it was donated to Oxford University. He also became the first Hope Professor of Zoology at Oxford, a position he held for more than thirty years.
'Arcana Entomologica; or, Illustrations of Rare, and Interesting Exotic Insects' (1841-1845) included 96 coloured plates. Westwood was able to obtain specimens from the far flung colonies as well as from Societies and private collections in England. He described the behaviour and habitats of the specimens and the illustrations attempted to display the insects in a natural state with plants from their normal environment.
The images above have all been at least slightly cropped and occasionally background cleaned, and the close-ups are spliced screencaps from the zoomify interface.
- Volumes One and Two from 'Arcana Entomologica' are available online from the Oxford Digital Library.
- North Carolina State University have a web exhibition site devoted to Westwood.
- Previously: In a Manner Lepidopterous - Westwood relied upon Abbott's illustrations of the insects of Georgia in preparing his 'Arcana' series.
- Off on a slight tangent ... 'Creepy-Crawlies: Insects in Picture Books' from the Cotsen Children's Library at Princeton University [via Bouphonia]