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A reprint of a classical work in the Cambridge Library Collection.
A Cambridge-educated clergyman, William Kirby (1759–1850) published his first entomological work on the bees in his Suffolk parish. By contrast, the early writings of William Spence (c.1782–1860) were concerned with political economy. Having developed an interest in insects, Spence became acquainted with Kirby in 1805 and the pair collaborated on this influential four-volume illustrated work, originally published between 1815 and 1826. Spence researched for several months in the library of Sir Joseph Banks, to whom the work is dedicated, but illness later forced Kirby to complete the project. Significantly, he distanced himself from Spence's secular treatment of insect behaviour. Charles Darwin, who had the work with him aboard the Beagle, deemed this 'the best discussion on instincts ever published'. Volume 1 is reissued in its first edition of 1815, Volume 2 in its 1818 second edition, and Volumes 3 and 4 in their first editions of 1826.