Insectes de Surinam, 1726

Maria Sybilla Merian :: Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium | Dissertation sur la génération et les transformations des insectes de Surinam, translated by J. Rousset de Missy. The Hague: Pierre Gosse, 1726. | src Invaluable & Christie’s
Merian embarked on the two month voyage to the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America in June 1699, accompanied by her younger daughter Dorothea. The two endured the rigours of the tropical climate for 21 months in their endeavours to discover, collect and record the insect life, as a complement to the Raupenbuch, their work on European insects. Their sketches were first made from life and then painted on vellum. When mother and daughter left the colony in June, 1701 they were ‘loaded with rolled vellum paintings, brandied butterflies, bottles with crocodiles and snakes, lizards’ eggs, bulbs, chrysalises that had not yet opened, and many round boxes full of pressed insects for sale’ (Kurt Wettengl, ed., Maria Sibylla Merian 1647-1717, Ostfildern, 1998, pp. 180-81). Work on the Metamorphosis continued in Amsterdam until the publication of the first edition in 1705 with 60 plates, depicting the insects life-size. Merian’s early training as a botanical artist is evident in the fine depiction of the plants on which the insects feed and breed. As Sitwell states, these ‘are drawn with the same delicacy and precision as the insects themselves, and the book may thus legitimately be considered a florilegium also’ (Great Flower Books p. 30). Further editions of the work followed in 1719, 1726, and 1730, containing not only the original 60 plates but 12 additional engravings of reptiles, amphibians and marsupials, originally intended for a projected second volume. Quoted from Christie’s

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