English engraver and entomologist Moses Harris first published The Aurelian: or, Natural History of English Insects in 1766. (A person who studies moths and butterflies is a lepidopterist, or what was once known as an aurelian.) The Aurelian featured more than 40 hand-colored prints and corresponding text, including this engraving depicting the life cycle of a small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly (Boloria selene) and a Clifden nonpareil moth (Catocala fraxini). Harris’s original engraving was dedicated to “The Hon[ora]ble Norborne Berkeley,” a notation found in the 1839 version in the DAR Museum’s collection.
Harris’s use of vibrant colors harkens back to his earlier work examining variations on colors and color mixing called Natural System of Colours, which was based on previous research done by Sir Isaac Newton. Harris was an accomplished artist, supplying artwork for English scientist Dru Drury’s Illustrations of Natural History (1770–1782) as well as John Coakley Lettsom’s The Naturalist’s and Traveller’s Companion (1772). Harris also exhibited some of his illustrated works on butterflies at the Royal Academy in London.