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This book (Sample Downloads) has been written, I suppose, for someone like me: a photographer who is not a professional lepidopterist, but who has a keen interest in and love of butterfly hunting with a camera.

Photography is, of course, concerned with pictorial representation. The most photogenic feature of butterflies is the pattern of colour on their wings and this is what individual pictures usually portray, but having spent thirty or so years taking tens of thousands of pictures I have come to realise that the total is much more than the sum of the parts. A representative series of pictures of any species is so much more interesting than the best prizewinning individual picture, and can develop into what I dare to call a portrait of the species. I hope to present such a portrait of all the European butterfly species to the reader from my own photographs and observations.

And if one holds in one’s mind the whole experience of every field trip and remembers when each picture was taken, the portrait will hold a short lifetime of pleasure for the author. I will also try to communicate some of this too.

Thus, this book contains many pictures of each European butterfly species to show uppersides and undersides of each sex and how these vary across its geographical range and in its different forms and subspecies. All principal pictures are printed to a definite scale based on the recorded magnification of each photograph, and the number of pictures is roughly proportional to the extent of the species’ distribution.

There is introductory information on each species, but thereafter each picture is accompanied by its own text in a similar way to comic books; they also have a story to tell in words and pictures. The idea is that each texted picture should illustrate one or more particular aspect of the species, and, by ordering the texted pictures suitably, a species’ portrait will emerge in a logical way. I think that the alternative of keeping the words and pictures separate would lose the intimate association between them and, moreover, would be unbearably inconvenient for the reader as the number of pictures is often large.

As implied, the primary function of each picture is to show some aspect of an individual butterfly that can be observed objectively, and then use it to develop the species’ description, but there is bound to be a certain amount of uncertainty when extrapolating specific observations into a wider context. Therefore, I’m afraid, some sentences will be littered with qualifying adjectives, such as typically, sometimes etc. I actually think this engenders a truer perspective of butterflies than the style in many butterfly books where information is imparted as a series of definite statements. To be fair, though, the compact nature of field guides makes it hard for many authors to be expansive. Nevertheless, I suggest it is true that most unqualified general statements about Natural History (i.e. the outcomes of evolution) should be regarded warily.

Sometimes, there will be comments that diverge from statements commonly repeated elsewhere. In general, I intend it to be possible to distinguish between comments of my own and comments that derive solely from other authors.

I will also present a systematic approach to the description of butterfly wing-patterns, some of which uses new terms etc., to allow unambiguous comments.

My own early difficulties, when I could never find enough published illustrations to help identify a slightly unusual looking photograph, are nowadays still the same for relative beginners using field guides with no real breadth of coverage. The large quantity of pictures in this publication is, I feel, bound to be helpful in this respect. But, a particular problem in distinguishing similar species is that one can easily pick up on some small difference in two illustrations which is not a consistent difference at all. I will therefore make a special effort to point out the consistent differences in similar species - but with any necessary qualifications!

The downside of having so many pictures is the substantial size of the whole publication. I have alluded to the arrangement of the descriptive text which is developed alongside the pictures and, I think, is thus satisfactory. Also, by publishing in loose-leaf form or as separately bound chapters (see Publication Policy), it will be much easier to use. Alternatively, non-printing digital copies are available. As a whole, however, the publication is complementary to a good field guide.

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