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Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
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Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
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Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)

ERUCARUM ORTUS, ALIMENTUM ET PARADOXA METAMORPHOSIS. 1718

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Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
Erucarum ortus, alimentum et paradoxa metamorphosis. 1718
MERIAN, Maria Sibylla (1647-1717). Erucarum ortus, alimentum et paradoxa metamorphosis. Amsterdam: Johannes Oosterwijk, [1718].

First Latin edition of the Raupenbuch, with plates in counterproof before letters and coloured by hand. Although the Erucarum ortus appeared a year after Merian's death, she was very much involved in its publication. From at least 1705 she had intended to issue her work on European insects in Latin as well as Dutch, completing it with a third part. Ill health at the end of her life delayed publication of the third part until just after her death, but Johannes Oosterwijk, an Amsterdam publisher who acquired all the plates and texts of Merian's works, published it posthumously.

Merian herself adopted the technique of printing her engraved plates in counterproof — whereby prints are taken not from the engraved printing plate but from a freshly printed image — to great effect. Counterproofs replicate as closely as possible the original drawing of the artist, since they are oriented in the same direction, show no plate mark, and have only a lightly inked image, making them highly suitable for delicate colouring. What had originally been a utilitarian process became for Merian the means to a higher aesthetic end. Hand-coloured counterproof copies were painstaking to print, and were commensurately more expensive; their rarity shows that it was one reserved for a few select clients. Coloured copies of the Erucarum ortus are very rare; only 5 coloured copies have been sold at auction in the past 40 years (ABPC/RBH), and Landwehr — despite being a previous owner of the present lot — does not record any coloured copies. Copies with the plates in counterproof are even rarer. Landwehr 135; Nissen BBI 1342.

3 parts in one volume, quarto (225 x 176mm). Engraved allegorical frontispiece by Simon Schijnvoet dated 1717, engraved armorial headpiece opening dedication, 150 engraved in counterproof delicately coloured by a contemporary hand (without engraved portrait and sectional titles, the frontispiece and title supplied from another copy and window-mounted, small marginal chip to pl. 14, pls. 111-112 stained, light scattered unobtrusive spotting). Contemporary vellum (? front pastedown possibly renewed, lightly soiled, lower cover with some small, light stains, extremities lightly rubbed). Provenance: 18th-century ink annotation to text in Roman and Gothic script and adding numbers to many of the plates — John Landwehr (bookplate).
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