Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717)
Der Rupsen Begin, voedzel en Wonderbaare Verandering. Amsterdam: Gerard Valk (parts I and II) [and ?Johann Oosterwijk (part III)] for the author, [1713-1714-1717]. 3 parts in one volume, 4° (233 x 175mm). Engraved allegorical frontispiece by Simon Schijnvoet dated 1717, author portrait in counterproof, engraved title to parts one and two, title to part three with floral decoration in counterproof and with text engraved and printed separately, and 150 PLATES IN COUNTERPROOF, ALL COLOURED BY HAND, PROBABLY BY MERIAN AND HER DAUGHTERS, in watercolour, the frontispiece and portrait in body colour and heightened with gold. (Some browning and spotting to text leaves, heavier in part III, light mildew in portrait and 5 text leaves in part I, offsetting and occasional spotting or staining in plates, heavier in about 5.) Contemporary Dutch red morocco panelled in gilt, spine gilt in compartments, black lettering-piece, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (discreet repairs along spine). Provenance: remnant of wax seal on front flyleaf; H.W. ?Backofner (modern inscription on rear flyleaf).
FIRST COMPLETE EDITION; FIRST EDITION OF PART III; AND FIRST EDITION IN DUTCH OF THE RAUPENBUCH. The present copy is one of the few known de luxe copies, which has the plates not only coloured by hand, almost certainly by Merian and her daughters, but also printed in counterproof. As Merian states in the introduction to the second part, coloured copies of the work were available upon request. The additional cost is not given, but Merian offered coloured copies of the Metamorphosis at more than twice the price of uncoloured copies (45 and 18 florins, respectively). More expensive still would have been copies with plates in counterproof, since considerably more effort was required to print them. Counterproofs were made by running the sheets through the press not with an engraved plate but with a freshly printed image, producing a lighter print without a plate mark. This base was highly suitable to delicate colouring, thereby replicating the original drawing as closely as possible. While Merian recognised the artistic advantages of the technique and issued a few copies of various editions of her work with counterproof plates, these DE LUXE COPIES ARE RARE; Landwehr cites only one example of Der Rupsen Begin in counterproof, and a copy was sold in these rooms in 1998 (11 November, lot 81).
Der Rupsen Begin is the culmination of Merian's life work. She commenced her studies of insects in 1660, at the age of 13, and she was immersed in preparing the third part of the Raupenbuch for publication at her death 57 years later in 1717. The first two parts were published in German in 1679 and 1683, respectively, each part consisting of an engraved title-page and 50 plates. Her artistic journal, or Studienbuch (preserved in St. Petersburg), is witness to her continued insect studies, and it contains many drawings and notes on insects and their metamorphoses, including paintings copying her already published illustrations. In 1705 in the Metamorphosis Merian announced her intention to publish a new edition of the Raupenbuch in order to augment her previously published work. Merian translated the text of the first two parts from German into Dutch herself, revising it and making it more succinct; she also included a few new studies, and prepared the text and illustrations for a new third part. The Dutch edition of the first part appeared in 1713 and the second in 1714, both printed for Merian by Gerard Valk. Illness slowed the progress on the third part, and it did not appear until just after her death. Merian had assigned drawings and descriptions to certain plates, but the work was completed by her daughters. Dorothea edited it, but the index of Surinam insects by Johanna Merian, promised on the title page, was not realised.
Nissen BBI 1342; Landwehr 133, 134; K. Wettengl (ed.), Maria Sibylla Merian, exhibition catalogue (1998), no.152.