Butterfly 'perfectly preserved' for nearly 400 years between the pages of a book at Cambridge University

The butterfly, as it was found in the book at Trinity Hall Credit: Trinity Hall

A perfectly preserved butterfly which could be nearly 400 years old has been found pressed in a book in one of the college libraries at the University of Cambridge. 

The book at Trinity Hall dates back to 1634 and is about insects.  The University says the butterfly could have been put there by the book's original owner in the 17th Century.

The butterfly was found in a book about insects Credit: Trinity Hall

The discovery was made by Trinity Hall's librarian when she was looking through animal texts. The butterfly was described as 'as colourful as the day it was pressed between the book's pages' and is thought to be almost as old as the tome itself, which was published in 1634.

Although examples of plant specimens being pressed into books are fairly common, it is rare to find a pressed insect.

Jenni Lecky-Thompson, Head of Library Services at the College, said "I was looking at some of the fantastic animal books we have, and I was going through the pages of the wonderful Theatre of Insects, or Insectorum sive Minimorum Animalium Theatrum, to give it it's true title."

"It is relatively common to find botanical specimens inside old books, but unusual to find an insect specimen. This one could have been put there by the first owner back in the 17th century, and if so it is amazing that is has survived there for so long."

The book is nearly four hundred years old Credit: Trinity Hall

The book was donated to the College by the family of former Trinity Hall undergraduate Lawrence Strangman who died in 1980. He was a passionate book collector and his antiquarian books included early books on natural history. His eclectic collection of books was presented to the College in 1996 by Lawrence Strangman's niece, Geraldine Essayan, in his memory.