Maria Sibylla Merian
At the young age of thirteen, Maria Sibylla Merian had already begun her systematic entomological research with a study of the silk worm, a description of which opens her second book, entitled Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandlung.(The Caterpillar's Wondrous Metamorphosi.). Motivated by reports on the flora and fauna of Surinam published by missionaries of the pietistic Labadist church, which she joined in 1685, she undertook a perilous journey to the tropics. Following her return home, she had her insect studies - life-sized drawings of insects on parchment - engraved in copper, adding descriptions of each species and its habitat. Four editions of these large-format engravings were published between 1719 and 1771. The epochal accomplishment of the painter, engraver and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian is to be found in the artistic perfection of her presentation of the results of meticulous entomological research, decades before the appearance of Linné's Systema Naturae in 1735.
Following the seminal studies by Elisabeth Rücker, this publication is the first comprehensive monograph on the work of Maria Sibylla Merian. It focuses not only on her artistic and scientific achievements but on her role as a publisher and entrepreneur as well. New material on the life and work of this extraordinary artist is provided in the form of unpublished letters and 40 previously unpublished water-colors from her St. Petersburg sketchbook.