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This classic work, originally published as 3 hardback volumes and long since out of print, has now been condensed into two paperback volumes. Volume 1 contains the text and plates with b/w line drawings, Volume 2 the colour plates.
Michael J. Roberts was bom in Leicestershire in 1945. He developed an early interest in natural history and also in art in which his mother, herself an artist, gave him encouragement and training in a variety of media. It was in the second year of his studies at Sheffield University Medical School that his interest in spiders was first awakened. Although interested in various aspects of zoology and botany, he took on the challenge of arachnology as being a difficult and underworked field. The lack of well-illustrated books inspired him to try his hand at providing his own illustrations.
He began by depicting the bodies about one inch long, but soon realized fe that only greatly enlarged, full-colour illustrations of spiders as they appear in spirit under the microscope would really satisfy the needs of the student endeavouring to identify specimens. His first full-size colour illustration, reproduced in this work as Plate 131, was produced in 1968 (the year of his graduation), using a monocular microscope and primitive lighting equipment and taking nearly a week's spare-time work to complete. He later progressed to a stereozoom microscope which enabled him to reduce the time spent on each drawing to between seven and eight hours.
Publication of Michael Roberts' work, begun as a hobby, was mooted in the late 1970s. He first concentrated on completing the colour plates and then moved on to the line-drawings, writing the text as the illustrative work progressed. Volume 1 (Atypidae to Theridiosomatidae) was published together with volume 3, the colour plate volume, in 1985 and the work was completed in 1987 with the publication of Volume 2: Linyphiidae.
Although an amateur, in the best tradition of British arachnologists, Dr Roberts has a worldwide reputation which has been greatly enhanced since the publication of this magnum opus. He is currently Secretary of the British Arachnological Society. After a career in both general and private medical practice, Dr Robens has opted for 'the good life' on a smallholding on the east coast of Scotland which he runs with his zoologist wife, Deborah, and where he is also furthering his artistic as well as his zoological career. He has recently provided the superb colour plate to illustrate Martin Lister's English Spiders.
Since 1987, when the final volume of this work was first published, there has been a considerable increase in the recording of spiders in the British Isles. The opportunity has been taken, with this Compact Edition, to produce an Appendix which details recent changes in nomenclature and contains the descriptions of recently discovered species.