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This exquisite hand-colored folio engraving is from Maria Sibylla Merian’s Histoire generale des insectes de Surinam et de toute l’Europe… Troisieme edition revue, corrigee et considerablement augmentee par M. Buch’oz… a laquelle on a joint une troisiemee partie qui traite des plus belles fleurs. The work was published in Paris by Chez L.C. Desnos in 1771. The engravings were done by J. Mulder, P. Sluyter and A. Stopendaal, all after Merian. The work is considered to be one of the most beautiful if not most famous illustrated natural history works of the 18th century.

The work was the result of Merian’s trip with her daughter Dorothea to Surinam in 1699. The pair studied and recorded plants and insects for two year under difficult conditions. They came back to Amsterdam with specimens and their work and produced this astounding work. It is ‘easily 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’ (Peter Dance, The Art of Natural History , pp.50-51).

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