Spotlight publication: Maria Sibylla Merian's book on insects in Surinam

Published on
December 15, 2020

Maria Sibylla Merian, a renowned botanical artist and entomologist, went to Surinam in 1699 to study insects. Curator Special Collections, Heritage & Art, Liesbeth Missel, explores in a video a very rare edition of Merian's book.

Entomologist, botanical artist and business woman

In 1699, Maria Sibylla Merian left Amsterdam with her daughter to study insects in Surinam. In 1705, she published her studies in a book that describes and depicts the life cycle of insects with the flowers and fruits on which they thrive.

She was the first to study South-American insects, as well as some amphibians and reptiles. Her book became a great success. Even after her death in 1717 several new editions were issued. A very special edition of this book, a so-called pirate edition, is in WUR's Special Collections. Curator Liesbeth Missel explains in the video what makes this book so special and intriguing.

WUR Image Collections

The pirate edition, published in 1765, can also be seen in Wageningen University & Research Image Collections as well. It contains hand-coloured prints made by Maria Sibylla Merian and engraved by P. Sluijter, J. Mulder and D. Stoopendaal. The images can be downloaded for free.

Treasure Room

Special Collections is the treasure room of WUR Library. It holds collections of rare and old publications on agriculture, botany, livestock farming and garden architecture. Many illustrations are available in the WUR Image Collections.