MERIAN, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717). Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium ... Dissertation sur la generation et les transformations des insectes de Surinam, translated by J. Rousset de Missy. The Hague: Pierre Gosse, 1726.
First edition in French of Merian's most famous work. The author travelled to Surinam with her daughter Dorothea in 1699. The pair spent two years studying and recording plants and insects, returning to Amsterdam with a series of finished drawings on vellum, together with sketches and natural history specimens, from which they continued to work. The first edition of their labours appeared in 1705 in Latin; the present lot 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' (Peter Dance, The Art of Natural History, pp.50-51). It is almost certainly the first artistic expression of the modern science of ecology. BM(NH) III, 1290; Hunt 467; Nissen BBI 1341; Pritzel 6105. See also: Dunthorne 205; Great Flower Books (1990), p.119; and Oak Spring Flora 101.
Folio (517 x 355mm). Titles and text in Latin and French, titles printed in red and black with engraved vignettes, engraved arms of the dedicatee Diego de Mendoca on dedication leaf, engraved frontispiece by F. Ottens bound before Latin and French titles together with the title-page from Joan Oosterwyk's Amsterdam edition of 1719, 72 engraved plates by Joseph Mulder, Pieter Sluyter and D. Stopendaal, all coloured by a contemporary hand, with the dedicatee's arms, title vignettes and initials in the preliminaries heightened in gold (a fresh, clean copy, with only some faint insignificant soiling). Later 18th-century dark blue morocco, gilt spine, gilt edges (extremities lightly rubbed). Provenance: Grosvenor (armorial bookplate).