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MERIAN, Maria Sibylla

Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium ... Dissertation sur la generation et les transformations des insectes de Surinam

Pierre Gosse, The Hague, 1726
Folio (515 x 355 mm), later eighteenth century dark blue morocco, gilt ruled, spine with raised bands, each compartment with ornate gilt decoration incorporating central floral design, gilt edged, with red calf gilt title label, marbled endpapers, lightly rubbed. With engraved frontispiece by F. Ottens in full early wash colour heightened in gold, title-page from Joan Oosterwyk’s Amsterdam edition of 1719, titles in Latin and French and Dedication to Diego de Mendoca, titles printed in red and black with engraved vignettes, engraved arms of the dedicatee on dedication leaf, all similarly coloured, with 72 engraved plates by Joseph Mulder, Pieter Sluyter and D. Stopendaal, all coloured by a contemporary hand, a fresh, clean copy, with only some faint insignificant soiling.
First edition in French of Merian’s most famous work. Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was the daughter of the noted engraver and publisher Mattheus Merian. He had worked on Theodore de Bry’s ‘Florilegium Novum’, 1612. Her mother was Dutch, and on Merian’s early death she married the flower painter Jacob Marrell. It was one of his pupils, Johann Graff of Nuremberg, who first taught Maria to paint; later they married. She grew up in a world in which one of the few pursuits allowed to women was that of floral design in one form or another. Maria however moved away from the more formal still life art of its day to a more natural style where the plant co-existed with surrounding wildlife. She would become as Tomasi states ‘One of the greatest painters in the history of botanical illustration’. As a child she became fascinated by the metamorphoses of caterpillars. So much so that in 1679 she published the first volume of ‘De Rupsen Begin’, or the ‘Wonderful Transformation of Caterpillars’. It contained 50 plates and was followed in 1683 by a second volume. A two year voyage with her daughter Dorothea to Surinam commenced in 1699. The pair studied and recorded the plants and insects and returned to Amsterdam with a number of finished drawings on vellum, together with specimens and further sketches. Their work culminated in the sumptuous ‘Dissertatio de Generatione et Metamorphosibus Surinamensium’, published in Latin in 1705. The present work is the third Latin edition published with a French text for the first time, and contains 12 additional plates by Merian’s elder daughter Johanna. The ‘Metamorphosis’ is ‘the most magnificent work on insects so far produced … [combining] science and art in unequal proportions, meeting the demands of art at the expense, when necessary, of science. Her portrayals of living insects and other animals were imbued with a charm, a minuteness of observation and an artistic sensibility that had not previously been seen in a natural history book’ (Dance). Provenance: Grosvenor (armorial bookplate, pasted inside upper board). Dance ‘The Art of Natural History’, pp. 50-51; Dunthorne 205; Great Flower Books (1990), p.119; Hunt 467; Landwehr 132; Nissen BBI 1341; Pritzel 6105; Sitwell & Blunt p. 67; Tomasi ‘Oak Spring Flora’ 101; Wettengl (ed.) ‘Maria Sibylla Merian’, Exhibition catalogue 1998, Haarlem, nos. 65, 66, 152.
Stock number: 9667

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