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The R.C. Dening Collection

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The R.C. Dening Collection is an insect collection composed of butterflies, moths and dragonflies collected from 42 different countries around the world (map). The collection was created by Richard, Cranmer (Tim) Dening over a life time (mainly from 1930 -2000) of passionate scientific interest in the natural world.  The majority of the specimens in the collection came from Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) where Tim lived and worked for 24 years.

The collection comprised 47 cases of butterfly specimens, 22 cases of moths and 6 cases of dragonflies/damselflies. Following Tim's death in 2005, the collection was donated to the Glasgow Museums, Scotland, by Tim's widow, Elisabeth Dening.

Images of all the cases of butterflies and the names of all the butterfly specimens can now be accessed on this website, together with the collector's personal notes. The cases of moths and dragonflies will be added soon.


Richard Cranmer Dening, collecting in Zambia

History of the Collection

Tim had a lifelong interest in the natural world. He began closely observing nature and collecting specimens as a young boy growing up in Southern England.  (Excerpts from his boyhood field notebooks can be accessed here.)

As a young man, he travelled to Canada and the USA, where he bought an old car and drove from one side of the continent to the other. Then came a break from collecting with the advent of the Second World War and active service in the Indian Army.

After demobilisation, he took up a post with the British colonial administration in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). He began to pursue his lifelong hobby once again while stationed in the bush in Mwinilunga. He was a District Commisioner in a number of rural regions of the country and travelled widely throughout the bush in the course of his job.

Following independence and the creation of the Zambian state, he continued to work in Zambian government, pursuing a career as an Agricultural Economist. On leaving Zambia in 1971, he spent three years in Malawi before returning to base himself in the UK. He continued to travel extensively on consultancy jobs, living and working in places as widely separated as Somalia, Antigua and Sri Lanka. He drove home overland from Sri Lanka to the UK, accompanied by Elisabeth, his wife. Her diary of this great adventure can be accessed here.

Two of Tim's daughters also lived in Hong Kong for many years, which entailed family visits and of course, time to go collecting!

Most of the specimens in the collection were either collected by Tim as adults or reared from earlier life stages. However, Tim also corresponded with other entomologists and occasionally swopped specimens. The butterflies in the collection from South America were obtained in this way. Some of the butterflies in the collection are ex-museum specimens. There is also a case of butterflies (the T.R. Beadle Collection) which Tim's father-in-law obtained in Sierra Leone in 1915. This was absorbed into Tim's collection after his father-in-law's death.

Scientific Credentials

Tim was an amateur entomologist, but only in the sense that he never pursued entomology as a paid career. He was a professional in every other way. He had an honours degree in Economics and an MA, both from Cambridge University and was a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. He wrote academic papers, discovered and had species named after him and spent many years of his life producing a checklist of Zambian butterflies.

A manuscript copy of a preliminary Zambian checklist produced by Tim in 1979 is held by the British Museum (Natural History) Library in London. In his retirement, Tim also collaborated with Alan Heath, Michael Newport and David Hancock in the production of a Zambian checklist to be published as a book.

He withdrew from the book project in 2000 and it was eventually published in 2002, sadly, without his name among the list of authors. (Heath, A., Newport, M.A. & Hancock, D. (2002). The Butterflies of Zambia. African Butterfly Research Institute & The Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa. Content Solutions Online, Pretoria.)

An Introduction to Zambian butterflies, originally written by Tim for inclusion in the book is reproduced here.

The Collection

Richard Cranmer (Tim) Dening with one of his cases of butterfly specimens. Tim was absolutely meticulous in his attention to detail. This was his life's work and he spent many thousands of hours working on the specimens he had collected.

The cases were organized according to taxonomic categories rather than geographical origin. Each individual pinned specimen in the collection had a label detailing exactly where and when it was collected. It was not practical to remove and then replace every specimen in the cases to record such individual information for this website. If required, this level of detail can be obtained from the Curator of Entomology at the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow.

In addition, there were many spare specimens stored in papers and similarly labelled with collection details. These unpinned specimens have also been donated to the Glasgow Museums.

Tim also kept his own personal, hand written notes on the places and in some cases, the dates when he collected specimens.  Specimens in the cases were numbered according to these notes. Each number represents a species or subspecies rather than an individual specimen number. Tim's notes have been reproduced on the website and can be accessed from each page displaying an individual case in the collection.

The notes were intended solely for Tim's own personal use and refer to places and items which were of particular relevance to himself. The notes are therefore difficult to interpret by someone unfamiliar with his life and with the detailed geography of the countries where he lived and collected. Explanations have been provided to help the reader to identify the countries and areas referred to in the notes.

The Collection's New Home

Glasgow collecting. Jeanne Robinson, Curator of Entomology, on the right. Jeanne Robinson, Curator of Entomology at Glasgow Museums (Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery) together with two colleagues, drove all the way from Scotland down to the south coast of Britain to pick up the collection on a rainy day in November 2006.

The family is very grateful to Jeanne (right) for her professionalism and care throughout the whole process of donating and transferring the collection to Glasgow, as well as subsequently. We are also very appreciative of her warmth, humour and understanding.


The Website

This website has been produced by Dr Barbara Corker, Tim's daughter. I have made every effort to ensure that the information provided is correct and that the species names are accurately transcribed. I have a Ph.D. in an ecological topic and am also a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, so I have a scientific background and training to help me in this task. However, if you do happen to come across any error, I would greatly appreciate it if you would email me so that I can set it right. Tim was a stickler for correctness. I would not want his memorial website to be anything other than correct!



I am indebted to Dr George McGavin, at the time, Assistant Curator at the Oxford Museum of Natural History (now an Honorary Research Associate of the Museum, as well as an author and TV presenter), for providing me with an introduction to Jeanne Robinson and the Glasgow Museums when I was searching for a suitable new home for Tim's collection.

I would also like to thank Eddie John FRES who provided input into some of Tim's Cyprus specimens while I was producing the website. You can access his excellent website on Cyprus butterflies and the Butterfly Recording Scheme for Cyprus here.

I am very grateful to Stephen Lawson for the many hours which he put into helping me keep the collection in good order prior to its rehousing and for all the photography of the cases. He has also had a considerable hand in designing the website and while I have often groaned at the work involved in some of his ideas, they have always improved it!


Images & Copyright

The images on this 'RC Dening Collection' website are copyright ©Stephen Lawson 2008. Images may be used by schools, colleges and universities for educational or scientific purposes, but please obtain permission first by emailing:

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Images may not be used without permission for any purpose where commercial gain is involved. This includes where payment is being received for producing material for non-commercial or charitable purposes.

Higher resolution images of the cases are available on request. I also have high resolution images of individual specimens in the majority of the cases. In addition, Tim took many photographs of individual specimens in his own collection and also in the African Butterfly Research Institute (ABRI) collection as part of his preparations for producing the Zambian Checklist. These can be supplied on request for a fee.

Any proceeds from the sale of images will be donated to the Lepidopterists' Society of Africa in Tim's name.



View the butterfly cases here, or alternatively, search for particular butterflies by Genus.




In loving memory of Richard Cranmer Dening 1920 - 2005.







Website Copyright © B.Corker 2008     Images Copyright © SJ Lawson 2008