image of a mothHarris, Moses, (1731?-1785?)

The Aurelian: A Natural History of English Moths and Butterflies, Together With the Plants on Which They Feed. Drawn, Engraved and Coloured from the Natural Objects by Moses Harris. New edition, With Their Systematic Names, Synonyms, and Additional Observations Upon the Habits of the Species Figured by John O. Westwood.

London: Henry G. Bohn, [1840].

image of a mothL'Admiral, Jacob, 1694-1770.

Naauwkeurige waarneemingen omtrent de veranderingen van veele insekten of gekorvene diertjes, die im omtrent vyftig jaaren, zo in Vrankryk, als in Engeland en Holland by een verzameld, naar 't leven konstig afgetekend, en it 't koper gebragt zyn .

Amsterdam: J. Sluyter, Boekverkoo e op den Dam, 1774.

 

Moses Harris (1731?-1785?) began his study of entomology at the age of twelve under the guidance of his uncle who was a distinguished entomologist and member of the Society of Aurelians. Harris amassed a private collection of specimens for two decades before producing The Aurelian, which was first published in 1766. Westwood updated the text of this edition in 1840, but the illustrations are those of Harris's original edition.

Charges of plagiarism against Harris by others in the entomological community required Westwood to defend Harris when the new edition of the Aurelian was published:

"It would be useless at the present day to say anything in praise of a work, which has been so long favourably known as "the Aurelian." That Harris took the idea from L'Admiral's work is certainly true, and that one or two of his figures of very rare insects are copied therefrom is admitted by Harris himself, but the grace with which he delineated the difficult and varied positions of insects whilst on the wing, the elegant arrangement of many of his plates, and above all the correctness of his figures, are a sufficient answer to the charge of plagiarism which has been brought against him." (Aurelian, p. i.)

Plagiarism of scientific images occurred frequently, lightly disguised under the headings "inspired by" or "with reference to" on title pages or in the prefaces to scientific publications. Beginning with Albrecht Durer's (1471-1528) famous woodcut of the double-horned rhinoceros (1515), a mistake perpetuated through more than a century of reproductions, plagiarism of images has been a condition of the discipline since the inception of scientific illustration.

 

Handpainted plate from Harris' "Aurelian" - original appearance
Handpainted plate from Merians Borstel-Rupsje by L'Admiral - mirror image
original page
The Aurelian
by Harris
mirror image
Merians Borstel-Rupsje
by L'Admiral
   
Handpainted plate from Harris' "Aurelian" - mirror image
Handpainted plate from Merians Borstel-Rupsje by L'Admiral - original format

mirror image
The Aurelian
by Harris

original page
Merians Borstel-Rupsje
by L'Admiral

 

Jacob L'Admiral (1694-1770), whose father was a painter from an aristocratic Norman family, was a Dutch artist and entomologist. Westwood alluded to charges of plagiarism of L'Admiral's work by Moses Harris (1731?-1785?) in the preface to the 1840 edition of the Aurelian. By comparing the two plates in this display, it is easy to see why these accusations occurred. The plates are essentially identical.

Back
Next