The British fauna used to contain only a few endemic varieties of insects, of which most have already gone extinct. One of them was the British subspecies of the Large Copper (the subspecies dispar) which became extinct from the British Isles in 1865. The extinction of this spectacular butterfly resulted from changing of fenland management and, in particular, the draining of the fens. There have been several introduction attempts, but these have all ultimately failed. The British subspecies, dispar, was endemic to the British Isles and reintroductions have used stock from the continental Europe.
The photographed specimens are from the historically-important collection of the British Lepidoptera by Joseph Sidebotham, acquired by the Manchester Museum in 1919. It is a good example of the Victorian private entomological collections. J. Sidebotham (1824-1885) was a calico printer and JP. His interest ranged from botany and entomology through astronomy and photography. All his specimens are perfectly mounted, reliably identified and are in perfect condition. However, only few of them have locality labels telling us where they were collected from. It is known that the majority of specimens in the Sidebotham Lepidoptera collection were collected in Britain in the late 19th century, but some might have been taken from France as well. Since that time several species of butterflies have already got extinct from the UK, for instance, the Large Copper butterfly represented in this collection by a series of 20 specimens.