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1  Summaries of Nabokov's Lepidopterological Papers

The names in these summaries have not been updated. In 1954, argyrognomon was changed to idas and ismenias to argyrognomon. In 1974, what had been Neonympha in the forties was changed to Cyllopsis. In 1997, the genus Lycaeides was changed to Plebejus.

Lep1 "A few notes on Crimean Lepidoptera". Basically a list of the 77 species of butterflies and 9 species of moths Nabokov captured or observed in C and S Crimea between November 1917 and August 1918, with very few comments.– The Entomologist (London), 53 (680), Jan 1920, p. 29–33

Lep2 "Notes on the Lepidoptera of the Pyrénées Orientales and the Ariège". An article listing the more than one hundred species and subspecies encountered on his trip to the Roussillon (Le Boulou) and the Ariège (Saurat) in S France, between Feb 8 and Jun 24, 1929. The trip was made possible by a sudden "stroke of luck,", the sale of the German rights of his second novel to the Berlin publishing house of Ullstein. In between, there are some personal remarks, for instance on a dream he had on his way there and on the nasty cold wind blowing at the foot of the Pyrenees. The only butterfly that received some comments was Melitaea dictynna vernetensis, a nymphalid.– The Entomologist (London), 64 (822), Nov 1931, p. 255–257, 268–271

Lep3 "On some Asiatic species of Carterocephalus". Nabokov's first American paper, a short one, written after the study of a small group of Asiatic members of the genus Carterocphalus Lederer, 1852 [Hesperiidae] at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Nabokov reestablished one genus that had been dropped previously and described one new species, Carterocephalus canopunct­atus.– Journal of the New York Entomological Society (New York), 49 (3), Sep 1941, p. 221–223

Lep4 "»Lysandra cormion, a new European butterfly". In this short paper, Nabokov described a new species of blues he had taken "on the flowery slopes above Moulinet (Alpes Maritimes, France)" in July, 1938. He did so reluctantly, for he was not sure whether it really deserved the status of a new species or perhaps was just a freakish singularity. "Personally I would have postponed describing this rarity were I ever likely to revisit its lovely haunts."– Journal of the New York Entomological Society (New York), 49 (3), Sep 1941, p. 265–267

Lep5 "Some new or little known Nearctic Neonympha (Lepidoptera: Satyridæ)". Though no specialist in satyrines, Nabokov when back in the East of the US and enjoying the facilities of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology proceeded to examine the specimens he had netted in the Grand Canyon in June, 1941 and to compare them with the members of the genus that were preserved in various collections. He found that the whole genus (which at that time was Coenonympha Hübner, 1819), flying in Arizona and possibly Mexico, had been neclected by lepidopterists, most of the specimens being lumped under Neonympha henshawi W.H. Edwards, 1876 without much consideration. After a morphological analysis, Nabokov restructured the genus taxonomically, adding two new species: the one he had found in the Grand Canyon, »Neonympha dorothea (with three new subspecies), and »Neonympha maniola which used to be labeled henshawi. For Neonympha henshawi, first described by W.H. Edwards in 1876, Nabokov supplied more definite criteria, clearly delineating this species. Neonympha pyracmon Nabokov resurrected from Butler's first description (1866) which had been forgotten. The article describes the reclassification and the reasoning behind it.– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 49 (3–4), Sep–Dec 1942, p. 61–80

Lep6 "The female of Neonympha maniola Nabokov (Lepid.–Satyridæ)". A five line note saying that the missing females of »Neonympha maniola Nabokov had been found in the collection of the United States National Museum in Washington.– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 50 (1–2), Mar–Jun 1943, p. 33

Lep7 "The Nearctic forms of Lycæides Hüb. (Lycænidæ, Lepidoptera)". This is the first of Nabokov's papers on the systematics of certain blues, based on his work in the labs of the Harvard MCZ where he dissected 350 specimens of N American representatives of the genus Lycaeides Hübner, 1819, a taxon where much confusion had been reigning. Measuring the male genitalia, he concluded that there are six or seven species and subspecies that fall into three main groups: Lycaeides argyrognomon, Lycaeides scudderi and Lycaeides melissa. One that had been mislabeled as scudderi he recognized to be a hitherto undescribed subspecies of melissa. He named it samuelis, thus becoming "godfather" to a second American butterfly, the »Karner Blue.– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 50 (3–4), Sep–Dec 1943, p. 87–99

Lep8 "Notes on the morphology of the genus Lycæides (Lycænidæ, Lepidoptera)". After proposing a new arrangment for the six or seven N American species and subspecies of the genus Lycaeides Hübner, 1819 in his preceding paper (Lep7), Nabokov turned to all its members, Nearctic and Palearctic. The work seems to have taken him roughly a year. Measurement of the genitalic armatures led him to arrange the roughly 120 subspecies of the genus in six clusters ("peaks of speciation"): agnata Staudinger, 1889, argyrognomon Berg­strässer, 1779, subsolanus Eversmann, 1851, scudderi W.H. Edwards, 1861, melissa W.H. Edwards, 1873 and ismenias Meigen, 1829. The paper introduced two new genera, Icaricia and Plebulina. The main morphological work reported in this paper consisted in an examination of 959 specimens. As he had found all prior systems of describing the macroscopical wing pattern and design of Lycaenidae wanting, Nabokov devised a scheme of his own and proceeded to apply it to Lycaeides. To describe the exact position of the various macules, he counted how many 'lines' of scales they were removed from the root of the wing. For the morphological description, he examined eight wing characteristics: 1. Size and shape. 2. Ground. 3. Cyanic overlay. 4. Vadosal elements. 5. Scintillant elements. 6. Hairscales. 7. Terminal submarking. 8. Maculation. The papers ends with an emphasis on morphological work: "… the systematist may fare better when keeping to the all important morphological moment, than when giving comprehensive geographic names (the whole of China, the whole of the Moon) to hypothetical 'populations' (a dreadfully misused term – and a hideous word, anyway) on the basis of half a dozen specimens taken by somebody between climb and cloud on some mountain thousands of miles away from the describer's desk." Nabokov to Edmund Wilson: "It is going to remain a wonderful and indispensable thing for some 25 years, after which another fellow will show how wrong I was in this or that. Herein lies the difference between science and art" (Oct 11, 1944).– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 51 (3–4), Sep–Dec 1944, p. 104–138

Lep9 "Notes on Neotropical Plebejinæ (Lycænidæ, Lepidoptera)". After dealing with Nearctic 'Plebejinae' in the preceding two papers, Nabokov turned to Neotropical ones. He dissected about 120 specimens to measure their genitalic structures under the microscope, most of them from the MCZ, and found the whole group in such a bad disarray taxonomically that he reordered it. This yielded the largest crop of new generic names of all his papers, six (Cyclargus, Echinargus, Parachilades, Paralycaeides, Pseudolucia, Pseudothecla). Also, he completely revised two genera which he found in a mess (Hemiargus and Itylos). In addition, there is a list of the 24 genera of 'Plebejinae,' there are ideas on their evolution, and there are some basic comments on the morphological concept of the species, as opposed to the biological one. Among the evolutionary speculations was a phylogeographic hypothesis on the order in which the main groups might have arrived in South America via the Bering land bridge. In 2011, molecular biology has shown that Nabokov might have been right (see under »Plebejus).– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 52 (1–2), Mar–Jun 1945, p. 1–61

Lep10 "A third species of Echinargus Nabokov (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera)". A one-page article with an addendum to the preceding paper, stating that the Neotropical lycaenid martha Dognin, 1887 (formerly labeled Lycaena martha) had been recognized to belong to Nabokov's new genus Echinargus.– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 52 (3–4), Sep–Dec 1945, p. 193

Lep11 "Southern pierids in New England". A seven-line note saying that Nabokov had observed two pierids usually occurring farther south in Cambridge, Massachusetts.– Psyche: A Journal of Entomology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 53 (3–4), Sep–Dec 1946, p. 42

Lep12 "Sphingids over Water". A seven-line note saying that in Estes Park, Colorado, Nabokov had observed a striped hawk moth of the genus Celerio poised over the water and immersing its proboscis.– The Lepidopterists' News (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 1 (7), Nov 1947, p. 82

Lep13 "A new species of Cyclargus Nabokov (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera)". A second addendum to Lep9: a Neotropical lycaenid from the Cayman Islands that formerly had been (mis)labeled Hemiargus catilina Bethune-Baker nec Fabricius and that had been sent to Nabokov from Oxford for examination was recognized to belong to one of Nabokov's new genera and named »Cyclargus erembis Nabokov.– The Entomologist (London), 81 (1027), Dec 1948, p. 273–280

Lep14 "The Nearctic members of the genus Lycaeides Hübner (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera)". "This work took me several years and undermined my health for quite a while. Before I never wore glasses. This is my favorite work. I think I really did well there," Nabokov told an interviewer (Int1). What he accomplished was a complete revision of the North American members of the genus »Lycaeides Hübner, 1819, a fact that was immediately acknowledged by Alexander B. Klots in his 1951 Field Guide (p. 164): "The recent work of Nabokov has entirely rearranged the classification of this genus." Nabokov had found it in bad disarray. What had plagued the genus was the disease called 'synonymy': its members had been described under up to fifteen different names in a great number of genera, so experts had a hard time figuring out which was which. Nabokov followed up the synonyms wherever he could and suggested a tidy new classification. This he could do because he had established for himself two clear criteria of when to consider a particular form a distinct subspecies: "A form … is subspecifically distinct if separable from any other intraspecific form… by at least two characters, one of which must be either (a) male alar (e.g. underside) or (b) male genitalic, and the other either male genitalic (if the first be a) or female alar (e.g. upperside or shape)" (p. 48). In other words, only if in a given form the male genitalic structure plus the male or female wing shape, coloring or maculation differed from all other forms of the species, it deserved to be counted as a subspecies. Using the methods devised in Lep8, Nabokov studied wings and genitalia in about 2,000 specimens. He reduced the North American representatives of the genus to two species, argyrognomon and melissa. Argyrognomon has ten subspecies: three on the West Coast between C California and British Columbia (anna, lotis, ricei), three in the north, from Alaska to the Maritime Provinces (alaskensis, scudderi, aster) and four in the Rocky Mountains (ferniensis, atrapraetextus and two that were newly named by Nabokov, »longinus and »sublivens). Melissa, the Orange-bordered Blue of North America, has four subspecies: three on the West Coast (annetta, inyoensis, melissa) and an isolated one in the East (samuelis). The classification still seems to stand; only three subspecies have been added, one of them bearing Nabokov's name (Plebejus idas nabokovi Masters, 1972).– Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Cambridge, Massachusetts), 101 (4), Feb 1949, p. 477–541, plus plates

Lep15 "Remarks on F. Martin Brown's 'Measurements and Lepidoptera.'" A rejoinder to some objections the Colorado lepidopterist F. Martin »Brown had raised against the preceding paper (Lep14) which he "in every other way" found "excellent" (in The Lepidopterists' News, 4, 1950, p. 51). Brown had thought Nabokov's scale line counts (a way of describing the position of wing macules) to be a waste of time, as they lacked evidence of their stability from colony to colony of the same subspecies. He also had questioned the advisability of introducing two new subspecies, longinus and sublivens, when they might be isolated fragments of just one. Nabokov answered that it would be a loss of time to calculate anything like the "mean length of falx" of the two subspecies to see if there was an overlap, as they were living 500 miles apart – and that the length of falx was not the only difference between the two forms. On the use of statistics in general, he said, "Natural science is responsible to philosophy – not to statistics". To which Brown, in a brief reply, agreed, [I wanted] "to point up the folly of depending solely upon measurements to set up subspecies" – all of taxonomy and statistics being "tools, not ends in themselves."– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 4 (6–7), 1950, p. 75–76

Lep16 "Postscript". A one-column note saying that Nabokov had found Lycaeides idas longinus at another locality in Wyoming, between Jackson and Moran, and listing some 38 other butterflies he had encountered in that region.– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 4 (6–7), 1950, p. 76

Lep17 "Yesterday's Caterpillar" (= review of Alexander B. »Klots, A Field Guide to the Butterflies of North America, East of the Great Plains, 1951). Nabokov calls Klots's guide "the finest book on American butterflies" since Scudder's monumental work of 1889. Still he notes a few blemishes, e.g. that "ecology is a pretty metaphysical business unless it is absolutely accurate."– The New York Times Book Review (New York), 3 Jun 1951, p. 21

Lep18 "The female of Lycaeides sublivens Nab". This semi-popular paper recounts the (successful) hunt for the female of »sublivens in the mountains of San Miguel County, southwestern Colorado, near Telluride.– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 6 1–3), 1952, p. 35–36 (also in StrOps, #10)

Lep19 "On Some Inaccuracies in Klots' Field Guide". Notes some slight mistakes in an otherwise admirable book.– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 6 (1–3), 8 Aug 1952, p. 41 (also in StrOps #11)

Lep20 "A World of Butterflies" (= review of Audubon's Butterflies, Moths and other studies, compiled and edited by Alice Ford). Argues that Audubon, being an ornithologist, did not know much about butterflies and for this reason got them all wrong when trying to picture them.– The New York Times Book Review (New York), 28 Dec 1952, p. 4, 14 (also in StrOps #13)

Lep21 "Butterfly Collecting in Wyoming". Enumerates the species and subspecies found on a field trip to Wyoming.– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 7 (2), 26 Jul 1953, p. 49–52 (also in StrOps #12)

Lep22 "Comments on Lycaeides argyrognomon in Wisconsin" (= excerpt from a letter to Louis Griewisch in Green Bay, Wisconsin). Saying that he found isolated colonies of the Karner Blue in Southern Michigan and that the "beautiful series" of a subspecies of Plebejus argyrognomon Griewisch had sent the MCZ is sufficiently distinct from Canadian argyrognomon scudderi to merit a subspecific name of its own. (This name has been supplied by John H. Masters in 1972. It is »Plebejus idas nabokovi, 'Nabokov's Blue.') "I have nowadays hardly any time at all for working on Lepidoptera …"– The Lepidopterists' News (New Haven, Connecticut), 7 (2), 26 Jul 1953, p. 54

Lep23 "Rebel's Blue, Bryony White" (= review of L.C. Higgins and N.D. Riley, Field Guide to the Butterflies of Britain and Europe). Praises this field guide of European butterflies, criticizing a few minor details.– Times (Educational Supplement) (London), 23 Oct 1970, p. 19 (also in StrOps #14)


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