Merian book on Surinamese insects donated to Wageningen University

Published on
February 7, 2019

On Tuesday, 5 February, prof. dr. ir. Louise Fresco received a rare book as a gift to Wageningen University. The gift came from a former student who started studying in Wageningen in 1945.

In 2018, the university’s centennial year, he contacted the Library to donate a few books. We selected one book, Maria Sibylla Merian's beautifully illustrated book Insects of Surinam, a rare edition from 1726.

Maria Sibylla Merian

In 1699, Maria Sibylla Merian, a renowned botanical artist and entomologist, left Amsterdam with her daughter to study insects in Surinam. She was intrigued by the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies. 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. Her lively and realistic illustrations are considered to be among the best in the world. 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. Books about her work still appear worldwide.

A different edition of this book, published in 1765, can be seen in Wageningen University & Research Image Collections. It contains hand-coloured prints made by Maria Sibylla Merian and engraved by P. Sluijter, J. Mulder and D. Stoopendaal.

Photo: Guy Ackermans