Written by a Harvard librarian and leading American entomologist, this is an outstanding copy of one of the most important treatises on pest control in agriculture printed in the 19th century. Thaddeus William Harris (1795-1856) trained as a medical doctor but gave up the profession to become librarian at Harvard University, where he introduced one of the first card catalogue systems and increased the University’s holdings from 30,000 to 65,000 over the course of his tenure.
Though diligent in this work, Harris’ real passion was for entomology; his spare time was devoted to the study of insects, and he eventually acquired nearly 10,000 specimens–in its day, a collection considered the finest in the United States. Sometimes overshadowed by contemporaries like naturalist Asa Grey (who was given a Harvard professorship over Harris) and fellow entomologist Thomas Say, Harris’ work was nonetheless pivotal in the development of the study of insects, and he was deemed “the greatest entomologist in the world” by the brilliant zoologist and fellow Harvardian, Louis Agassiz.
The present work first appeared in a report for the Massachusetts Commission on the Zoological and Botanical Survey in 1841, and printed separately in 1842 under the title “A Treatise on Some of the Insects of New England, Which Are Injurious to Vegetation.” Eschewing language that was too technical, Harris’ writing is notable for the straightforward, easy to follow descriptions that would have appealed to an audience outside the ivory tower. According to ANB, “Harris’ reputation rests largely on this work, and through its influence he is credited with founding practical or economic entomology, emphasizing the control of insect pests in the United States. At the end of the century it still was considered an essential manual for entomologists of the Northeast.” This third edition introduces several lovely hand-colored plates, enriching the text and offering a distinct advantage over earlier editions. Ours is as clean and attractive a copy as one can hope to find, with none of the wear one usually finds on publisher’s bindings of this period. (ST15736m)