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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Harrow Butterfly Collection for Bonhams Auction

An extraordinary collection of over 3,500 rare butterfly specimens, previously hidden in archives at Harrow School in England, and re-discovered by a Japanese schoolboy, Hitoshi Takano, will go on sale at auction house, Bonhams, in London on 27th May.

butterfly-collection.jpgOld Harrovian, Hitoshi Takano stumbled upon the Rothschild-Peebles (Harrow) Butterfly Collection aged 13, when putting together an exhibition on the Rothschild Swallowtails. Harrow School has since recognised that this highly-valuable collection deserves wider recognition and an opportunity to be studied and enjoyed by a greater exposure.

Harrow’s Head Master, Barnaby Lenon says: “The collection was not displayed at Harrow and was rarely viewed because butterflies are not part of the Biology curriculum and so they are only occasionally used or studied by the boys. It would have cost a disproportionately large sum of money to conserve the collection properly. We are keen for it to have a good home where it will be cherished, and preserved properly. The proceeds of the sale will be used to enhance another aspect of Harrow’s educational facilities for the long-term benefit of the boys and the wider School community.”

Hitoshi Takano comments: “When I first saw these Birdwing butterflies, I could not believe my eyes – I had only ever seen photographs of them in books. I remember going through drawer after drawer in utter amazement. It has been a real joy and honour to be able to work with this very special school collection and I hope that this sale at Bonhams will be a success.”

This remarkable find is formed of butterflies from the personal collections of Lord Walter Rothschild, Charles Rothschild and Howard Peebles. Walter Rothschild’s passion for natural history led him to amass one of the finest collections of birds, butterflies and other fabulous specimens ever assembled. This collection of butterflies was given to Harrow School by Walter’s younger brother Charles Rothschild and his fellow entomologist Howard M. Peebles.

The collection includes specimens from every continent and features 300 different sub species. Lord Rothschild was an eminent zoologist in the Victorian era when collecting butterflies was an extremely popular hobby. The Rothschild-Peebles (Harrow) Collection contains six out of seven of the most highly protected species, which would today be legally unobtainable in the wild, making the Bonhams sale a unique opportunity to purchase species of this kind.

At the heart of the collection lies the outstanding Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world. This species was first discovered by Rothschild himself in 1908 and named after the then Queen of England. It is reported that this particular butterfly fetched over £10,000 on the Black market in 2002.

Camilla Seymour, single-owner sale coordinator at Bonhams comments: “It cannot be underestimated how visually exciting this collection is – my previous knowledge of butterflies was limited to watching Red Admirals feeding in my parent’s garden, so I was totally unprepared for the explosion of colour that I experienced when pulling open each and every drawer of the cabinets that house the collection.”

The collection is given prominence in the Spring issue of the Bonhams Magazine. The article is authored by Hannah Rothschild, the great, great niece of Lord Walter Rothschild.

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