25 November 2016
© Peter Eeles
Citation: Eeles, P. (2016). A Review of: Guide d'identification des papillons de jour de Suisse [Online]. Available from http://www.dispar.org/reference.php?id=122 [Accessed April 27, 2017].
Authors: Vincent Baudraz and Michel Baudraz.
Publisher: Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles, 2016.
Softback, 192 pages.
Abstract: "This guide presents in condensed form 1,750 identification criteria for Swiss butterflies (rhopalocera and red burnet moths), in an ideal format for taking into the field. Richly illustrated and written in such a way as to be accessible to a broad public, it allows anyone interested in butterflies to identify quickly and relatively easily any of the 216 species of present in Switzerland.
The book comprises two distinct parts: an intuitive and easy-to-use identification key (aimed mainly at beginners) and plates illustrating the diagnostic characters of each species (intended more for those already having an overview of the different species). Its publication is the fruit of many years' work compiling identification criteria, drawing both on the existing literature and the personal experience of the authors and Swiss butterfly specialists".
It is unusual for Dispar to include a review of a book written in any language other than English, but this is an exception. Guide d'identification des papillons de jour de Suisse is, to the best of my knowledge, the most comprehensive guide to the butterflies (also including burnet moths) of Switzerland that I've come across, and it is a delight to peruse.
Aside from the abstract and back cover, the content of the book is entirely in French. For those relatively-fluent in the language, then I have no doubt that they would find this an easy read since the terminology and phrasing used is simple and consistent. For those with a smattering of the language (and I include myself in this category), I think a quick "Google Translate" of key phrases will quickly get you up to speed. Those with only a rudimentary grasp of French would, I think, struggle. Having said that, I do think that an investment in studying the various phrases would pay dividends if you're at all interested in visiting Switzerland in search of butterflies.
The book is described on the back cover as "compact, lightweight and ideal to slip in the backpack for a hike". I'm afraid I would have to disagree; the paper cover would quickly deteriorate, along with the rest of the pages! Given the quality of the content, I would recommend taking photos and subsequently using this book as a guide to help you identify what you've seen.
And this is where this book really comes into its own. The authors have clearly put a huge amount of effort into describing keys that allow you to "home in" on a given species, as well as key features attributed to each individual species that allow you to pinpoint your target. The illustrations, by Hans-Peter Wymann, are really superb and I had to remind myself, every now and again, that these are not photos of specimens.
The real test (for European butterflies, at least) is to look at the various species of Pyrgus (Grizzled Skippers) and Erebia (Ringlets). The level of description provided for these genera is quite breathtaking and certainly the most detailed I have ever seen, setting a new standard for European identification guides, in my humble opinion.
I do hope that an English version of this book is produced since I know that some would struggle to interpret the content when written in French. Having said that, if you're at all interested in European butterflies, and especially Swiss butterflies, then this book is for you; if I hadn't been sent a review copy then I would have purchased this book without question.
A search for "Guide d'identification des papillons de jour de Suisse" online will list booksellers that have this book in stock.