Perfectly preserved 400-year-old butterfly found inside library book

A 400-year-old butterfly was discovered in an ancient library book (Picture: Trinity Hall/Triangle News)

A 400-year-old butterfly has been found pressed between the pages of an ancient library book.

The perfectly preserved small tortoiseshell specimen was found inside a 1634 copy of Theatre of Insects — also known as Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalium Theatrum — Britain’s earliest tome on the subject.

Librarian Jenni Lecky-Thompson, who made the discovery at Trinity Hall, Cambridge university, said: ‘It is common to find botanical specimens inside old books, but unusual to find an insect specimen.

‘This one could have been put there by the first owner back in the 17th century. If so it is amazing it has survived there for so long.

‘I’ve had some discussion with rare books experts and they think it most likely that the butterfly has been inside the book for centuries.

‘It definitely wasn’t placed there by anyone since its arrival at Trinity Hall. As it is a valuable rare book it is kept securely locked away in a bookcase.’     

Librarian Jenni Lecky-Thompson made the discovery at Trinity Hall (Picture: Triangle News)
The ancient insect is thought to be roughly as old as the volume (Picture: Triangle News)

The book was donated to the college by the family of former student Lawrence Strangman, who died in 1980.

Trinity Hall, which has had the book in its collection since 1996, revealed the butterfly is as ‘colourful as the day it was pressed between the book’s pages’.

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