MERIAN, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717) - MERIAN, Johanna Helena (1668-1723). Dissertatio de Generatione et Metamorphoibus insectorum Surinamensium. - De Europische Insecten. Amerstdam: J. Oosterwyk, 1719 - J.F. Bernard, 1730.

$ 550,000.00

MERIAN, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717). Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphoibus insectorum Surinamensium: in quâ, præter vermes & erucas Surinamenses, earumque admirandam metamorphosin, plantæ, flores & fructus quibus vescuntur, & in quibus fuerunt inventæ, exhibentur his adjunguntur Bufones, Lacerti, Serpentes, Araneae, aliaque admiranda istius regionis animalcula; omnia manu ejusdem matonae in America ad vivum accurate depicta, & nunc aeri incisa. Accedit appendix transformationum piscium in ranas, & ranarum in pisces. Amerstdam: J. Oosterwyk, 1719.


MERIAN, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717). De Europische Insecten, naauwkeurig onderzogt, na't leven geschildert, en in print gebragt. Met een korte Beschryving, waar in door haar gehandelt word van der Rupsen begin, Voedzel en wonderbare Verandering, en ook vertoont word de Oorspronk, Spys en Gestalt-verwisseling, de Tyd, Plaats en Eigenschappen der Rupzen, Uiltjes, Vliegen en andere diergelyke bloedeloose Beesjes : hier is nog bygevoegt een naauwkeurige Beschryving van de Planten, in dit Werk voorkomende, en de Uitlegging van agtien nieuwe Plaaten, door dezelve Maria Sibilla Merian geteekent en die men na haar dood gevonden heeft : en door een voornaam Liefhebber in't Nederduits vertaalt. 


2 works in one volume. Folio (19 4/8 x 13 4/8 inches). "Dissertatio": Engraved frontispiece by J. Oosterwyk after F. Ottens, vignette title-page, vignette dedication leaf, and 72 full-page plates all hand-colored in a contemporary hand (short marginal repair to frontispiece, small marginal tear with loss to plate 61, some minor offsetting and a few pale marginal stains).  - "De Europische Insecten": half-title, title-page printed in red and black, with engraved vignette and 184 plates on 47 leaves all hand-colored in a contemporary hand. Contemporary paneled Dutch vellum over paste-boards, each cover decorated in blind with two panels of multiple fillets with fine globe tools at each corner between the panels, surrounding a central arabesque medallion, spine in 9 compartments with 8 raised bands, the author and title written in manuscript in the second (expertly rebacked preserving the original spine by James and Stuart Brockman, full report available on request, some staining).    

Provenance: From the celebrated library of Magnificent Botanical Books of Robert de Belder (1921-1995) and his wife Jelena de Belder-Koracic (1925-2003), horticulturists and proprietors of Arboretum Kalmthout, their sale Sotheby's "A Magnificent Collection of Botanical Books... from the celebrated library of Robert de Belder" 28th April 1987.  

A FINE COPY of the second edition of Merian's MAGNUM OPUS, her "Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphoibus insectorum Surinamensium...", in Latin, and enlarged with 12 full-page plates by Merian's elder daughter Johanna Helena, who moved to Surinam in 1711, not included in the first edition of 1705.

BOUND WITH the first folio edition, in Dutch, of the "De Europische Insecten" with the first appearance of the full suite of plates, the companion and complement to her great Surinam work. "It is as remarkable for its botanical as for its entomological content" (De Belder)."It is as remarkable for its botanical as for its entomological content" (De Belder).


Merian's study of caterpillars and butterflies and the plants that nourish them was "the work of her lifetime" (Wettengl, p.54), in that the preparation and publication of several parts and editions of her "Raupenbuch", spanned her entire career. Merian herself in her "Studienbuch", now housed in St. Petersburg, Russia, records that she was raising silkworms and other insects by the time she was 13 in 1660. At the end of her life, she was immersed in preparing the third part of the "Raupenbuch" for publication. 

Daughter of Swiss topographical artist Matthaus Merian, and a Dutch mother, Merian had been raised in Germany. Her first and rarest work, the "Blumenbuch" was issued in 3 parts, each consisting of 12 plates, in 1675, 1677 and 1680, respectively. In 1680 a composite issue appeared of all three parts, newly entitled "Neues Blumenbuch", with two leaves of text containing an introduction and a register of plant names.  While in Germany she married the Nuremberg painter Johann Andreas Graff, and published the first two parts of the "Raupenbuch" .

Following Merian's own celebrated "metamorphosis" involving a religious conversion, and separation from her husband, Merian travelled with her daughters to Dutch Surinam: "expressly to study and record the insect life of the tropics... this voyage was not only unusual for a woman in her position, it was unprecedented for any European naturalist to venture such an independently financed and organized expedition. In Surinam she worked for almost two years collecting, observing and painting over ninety species of animals and sixty or more species of plants" (Etheridge, page 2).

Merian returned from Surinam in 1702, and in 1705, she published her magnum opus, "Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium". Several editions were published posthumously, at first by her family and later by others. Twelve additional plates were added. "The text and images that inform her volumes are the product of decades of meticulous observations of the life cycles of insects, and her skill in recording what she saw was unmatched by any naturalist who preceded her or by her contemporaries. Not only were her artistic skills much greater than previous artist-naturalists like Conrad Gesner (Swiss, 1516-1565), but most of her images were made from live or freshly preserved specimens. Merian shows moths laying eggs, caterpillars feeding on leaves, and butterflies and lizards alike extending their tongues toward potential food". (Etheridge, page 3).

Beautiful, and so accurate are Merian's images, the insects in "Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium" being depicted lifesize against plants that had been arranged to suit the composition, that in a study reported by Etheridge, 73% of the images of lepidopterans are identifiable to genus and 66% can be identified as an exact species. "This success rate for matching known species to painted images is impressive, particularly when one considers that the identification of all insects in the tropics remains incomplete even today" (Etheridge, page 4). Since Merian painted some of these specimens, they had sadly become extinct, and she is credited with being the only person to have recorded the metamorphosis of some of the Surinam species. In addition to insects and spiders Merian portrayed two species of frog, snake and lizard in the 1705 edition of "Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium", with additional vertebrates in this second edition. Linnaeus and his follwers used Merian's depictions to name at least one hundred species, and Stearn includes Merian with the small select group whose illustrations formed the basis of most of Linnaeus' early taxonomy of tropical plants "pointing out that actual specimens from such areas were initially rare because collecting them was expensive and dangerous" (Etheridge, page 8).

Nissen 1341; Sitwell "Great Flower Books," p. 67; Dunthorne 205; Hunt 467 (1726 edition), 483 (French edition); Landwehr 131; "Oak Spring Flora" 101; Stearn "The Wondrous Transformation of Caterpillars", 1978; Kay Etheridge "Maria Sibylla Merina: The First Ecologist?". Catalogued by Kate Hunter