<< Previous page

A Pair of Pieter Cramer Framed Prints of Butterflies, Circa 1775.


A Pair of Pieter Cramer Framed Prints of Butterflies,

From the De uitlandsche Kapellen voorkomende in de drie Waereld-Deelen Asia, Africa en America - Papillons exotiques des trois parties du monde l'Asie, l'Afrique et l'Amerique which was published 1775-1782.

Dimensions: 16 1/2 inches x 13 1/2 inches wide.

The work was the first color book arranging exotic butterflies in accordance with the Linnaean system of classification. Many of the species were named and displayed in print for the first time, and several species have been lost to time.

The original hand-coloring is still rich and vibrant, sometimes with genuine silver. Each antique butterfly print measures approximately 9 inches wide by 11 inches tall

Antique butterfly copper plate engravings have become exceedingly rare on the market and the superb artistry and beautiful original hand coloring makes these prints a wonderful addition to any collection.



Pieter Cramer (21 May 1721 (baptized) – 28 September 1776), was a wealthy Dutch merchant in linen and Spanish wool, and an entomologist. Cramer was the director of the Zealand Society, a scientific society located in Flushing and a member of Concordia et Libertate, based in Amsterdam. This literary and patriotic society, where Cramer gave lectures on minerals, commissioned and/or financed the publishing of his book on outlandish (exotic) butterflies, occurring in three parts of the world Asia, Africa and America: De uitlandsche Kapellen.

Cramer assembled an extensive natural history collection that included seashells, petrifications, and insects of all orders. Many were colourful butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), collected in countries where the Dutch had colonial or trading links, such as Surinam, Ceylon, Sierra Leone and the Dutch East Indies.

Cramer decided to get a permanent record of his collection and so engaged the painter Gerrit Wartenaar to draw his specimens. He also arranged for Wartenaar to draw butterflies and moths belonging to other keen Lepidoptera collectors in the Netherlands. One of them was stadtholder prince William V of Orange. Hans Willem Baron Rengers and Joan Raye, the son of the former governor in Surinam, were among the others. Such was the quality of the illustrations that Caspar Stoll encouraged him to publish the set of drawings.

Cramer, a bachelor, was born in Amsterdam, and lived on Oudezijds Voorburgwal 131 close to the Oude Kerk. In 1760 he had bought the house, then known as "the three kings". On 5 September 1774 he made his will with a stipulation that the drawings should be available to the publisher.[4] So all the drawings went to his nephew Anthony van Rensselaer, under the condition to have these drawings printed by the bookseller Johannes Baalde. As a result, the Uitlandsche Kapellen was published 1775-1782. It consisted of 33 parts, each one issued after three months to the subscribers, in four volumes with all of the drawings accompanied by descriptions of the insects.

Cramer died "of high fevers" in 1776 after eight issues (Vol. I) had been published, leaving responsibility for finishing the project to Van Rensselaar and Stoll. Stoll is supposed to be the author of the text from page 29 of the fourth volume onwards.

De Uitlandsche Kapellen is a key work in the history of entomology. Beautifully illustrated with fine, life-size and hand-coloured engravings of Lepidoptera from Asia, Africa and America, it was the first book on exotic Lepidoptera to use the then new system developed by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) for naming and classifying animals. Over 1658 butterfly species were described and illustrated on 396 (or 400) plates, Cramer and Stoll naming and illustrating many new species for the first time.

Cramer's collections were broken up after his death and sold, auctioned and donated to institutions and individuals. The Dutch Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum came to own a substantial part of his specimens and bought part of Cramer's collection from Joan Raye, heer van Breukelerwaert.