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We all love butterflies — so why are we wiping them out?

Two new books — Rainbow Dust by Peter Marren and In Pursuit of Butterflies by Matthew Oates — celebrate the powerful myths surrounding these ravishing ephemera

1 August 2015

9:00 AM

1 August 2015

9:00 AM

Rainbow Dust: Three Centuries of Delight in British Butterflies Peter Marren

Square Peg, pp.320, £14.99, ISBN: 9780224098656

In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty Year Affair Matthew Oates

Bloomsbury, pp.480, £18.99, ISBN: 9781472924506

Last month, at Edinburgh School of Art, I was interested to come across a student who’d chosen Marlowe’s Dr Faustus as her end-of-year degree project. In the wonderful stage costume she’d designed for its central figure were three gloriously embroidered butterflies fluttering around his hat. Bats, yes, moths, maybe, but what exactly was the significance of butterflies to a man bound for subterranean hell? The answer is in Rainbow Dust, Peter Marren’s superbly distilled statement on our national obsession with butterflies.

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'Rainbow Dust', £12.99 and 'In Pursuit of Butterflies', £15.99 available from the Spectator Bookshop,  Tel: 08430 600033.

Mark Cocker’s books include A Tiger in the Sand: Selected Writings on Nature, Crow Country and (with Richard Mabey) Birds Britannica.

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