The Transformation of the Surinamese Insects

In 1699, along with her daughter, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717), travelled to Suriname to carry out research into the reproduction and development of insects. She brought back sixty magnificent illustrations showing exotic insects and plants.

She published an amazing book, showing these illustrations with descriptions, in 1705. This book, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (The Transformation of the Surinamese insects), is now regarded as the product of both a highly gifted artist and an exceptional empirical scientist, one of the first to demolish the prevailing notion of the spontaneous generation of insects from mud.

Read more about Maria Sibylla Merian in this yearbook article (pdf).

Lannoo publishers made an awesome facsimile of this book (54 x 36 cm). The reissue is the same size as the original and is enriched with an illustrated introduction about the life, work and significance of Merian, who was born in Germany, and trained there as an artist, before moving to the Netherlands in about 1685 as an adherent of a Dutch religious sect, the Labadists.

The publisher worked closely together with Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the National Library of the Netherlands in The Hague, possessing the original edition as a major showpiece of her collection, to produce this bilingual edition (Dutch/English). You can browse this masterpiece below.


Amsterdam University was the third collaborator in this prestigious project, enriched by a new scientific description of all the insects, animals and plants and a list of extant copies of the 1705 edition.
The original Dutch text is translated into English by Patrick Lennon.

A book to cherish and to contradict the Greek proverb that a huge book is a great evil.

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