Books by Maria Sibylla Merian (overview)

In Merian’s time book production was quite different from present. Today every printed copy is the same. But in her time printers and publishers produced books in sheets or “leaves” and a buyer could decide whether he would let his copy be colored and what binding he would prefer. So Merian’s books were available for purchase as uncolored versions or copies hand-colored by either Merian herself or her daughters. With the exception of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, Merian engraved all of the plates for her books using copper plates. However, for some editions, Merian used a special printing technique: contrefaçon or counterproof. These factors caused the various copies of Merian’s books to differ in appearance (see online books).

1675-1680: Blumenbuch (Book of Flowers)

The Blumenbuch (Book of Flowers) is Merian’s first publication. It is of great rarity. Merian published in the course of five years three volumes, each with twelve plates. In 1675, the first part, Florum Fasciculus Primus, was published. The second part, Florum Fasciculus Alter of again twelve plates followed in 1677 and a third part, Florum Fasciculus Tertius, in 1680.


  • Part I: Florum Fasciculus Primus quem Maria Sibylla Merian Graffin Matthaei Meriani Senioris Filia depinxit aerique incidit, et Jo: Andreas Graff excudit Noribergae A° 1675. Nürnberg, Johannes Andreas Graff, 1675.
  • Part II: Florum Fasciculus, Alter Zweyter Blumen-Theil so Maria Sibylla Gräffin Matth: Merians seel. des Aeltern Tochter nach dem Leben gemahlet und selbst auffs Kupffer gebracht […]. Nürnberg, Johannes Andreas Graff, 1677.
  • Part III: Florum Fasciculus Tertius, Dritter BlumenTheil: so Maria Sibylla Gräffin nach dem Leben gemahlet, und ins Kupffer gestochen. Zu finden in Nürnberg bey Joh. Andr. Graffen Mahlern A° 1680.

1680: Neues Blumenbuch (New Book of Flowers)

A second edition of the Blumenbuch – entitled Neues Blumenbuch (New Book of Flowers) – which contained all three parts, was published in 1680. In this edition the Latin title Fasciculus (loose bundle) was replaced by Neues Blumenbuch, indicating that this edition was new. Maybe she was influenced by those like Christopher Arnold in Nuremberg who wanted to promote the German language. And perhaps it was a marketing tool to make the book more appealing to an audience who could not read Latin. This edition also contains a preface. By the time Merian was ready to publish the third part of her Blumenbuch in 1680, the first two parts may have been already out of print. Those who had purchased the first and the second part already could buy the new third part separately, including the preface to the entire work. Other readers could acquire all three parts along with the preface and the newly designed title page. Like the first, the second edition, the Neues Blumenbuch, was sold without a binding. So it may occur that the sequence of the plates differs in the volumes that exist today. Six complete copies of this work are known to have survived.


Neues Blumenbuch. Allen Kunstverstandigen Liebhabern zu Lust, Nutz und Dienst, mit fleiss verfertigt […]. Nürnberg, Johann Andreas Graff, 1680.

1679: Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung […] (The Caterpillar’s wondrous metamorphosis and extraordinary nourishment from flowers); part I

The first volume of the Raupen book (caterpillar book) was published by Johann Andreas Graff in Nürnberg in 1679. It was printed by Andreas Knortzen. Like each of the two successive volumes published in Frankfurt and Leipzig in 1683 and posthumously in Amsterdam in 1717, the book contains fifty plates with illustrations of flowers and insects. Just as important as the illustrations was the text (in German) that Merian wrote to accompany each image of insect metamorphosis on an ecologically related plant. Maria Sibylla Merian sold both colored and uncolored copies of the Raupen book, and also produced counterproof editions.


Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung […]. Nürnberg, Johann Andreas Graff; Frankfurt/M & Leipzig, 1679.

1683: Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung […] (The Caterpillar’s wondrous metamorphosis and extraordinary nourishment from flowers); part II

Like its predecessor, the second volume of the Raupen book, published in 1683, contains fifty plates depicting insect metamorphosis and detailed textual descriptions. Maria Sibylla Merian sold both colored and uncolored copies of the second Raupen book as well. the book was was published in Frankfurt, but was printed in Nuremberg, but by a different printer than the one who printed the first volume.


Der Raupen wunderbare Verwandelung und sonderbare Blumennahrung […]. Andrer Theil, Frankfurt/M und Leipzig, David Funken, 1683.

1705: Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium (Transformations of the insects of Suriname)

In the year 1705 Maria Sibylla Merian published on her own initiative a Latin and a Dutch edition of her Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, containing sixty plates. The lack of sufficient subscriptions kept her from realizing a German edition. Nor was she able to carry out her plan to issue a second volume on reptiles and amphibians, for which she had collected and prepared enough material. In several letters she writes about the complications with the publication of that book (see Letters).
The subscription price for an uncolored version of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium was 15 florins; later 18 florins. A hand colored copy could be purchased from Merian for 45 florins (approximately € 1200 in 2015). The Frankfurt patrician Conrad Zacharias Uffenbach, who visited Merian in Amsterdam in February 1711 (see Travel Accounts), writes in his diary that six years after its publication, Merian still possessed copies of the book. For some copies, she also printed plates with the counterproof or contrefaçon technique. Because of all possible varieties, none of the copies look exactly the same. Approximately 70 copies of this work in various appearances are known to exist today.


  • Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten. Waar in de Surinaamsche rupsen en wormen met alle des zelfs veranderingen na het leven afgebeeld en beschreeven worden […]. Amsterdam, for and sold by the author, sold by G. Valck, 1705.
  • Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. In qua erucæ ac vermes Surinamenses […] in quibus reperta sunt. Amsterdam, for and sold by the author, sold by G. Valck, 1705.

1712: Der rupsen begin, voedzel en wonderbaare verandering (The caterpillar’s wondrous metamorphosis and extraordinary nourishment from flowers); part I-II

The earliest Dutch edition of the two Raupen books (caterpillar books) were published in 1712, as can be concluded from advertisements in the Oprechte Haerlemsche Courant, 31 May 1712 and the  ’s-Gravenhaegse Courant, 23 November 1712 (see  article of Hans Mulder). Maria Sibylla Merian had the book printed on her own initiative. It was sold by herself and by Gerard Valck in Amsterdam. Merian had already announced the Dutch edition of her Raupen book in the preface to her Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, published in 1705: “If God gives me health and life enough, I intend to augment the observations I have made in Germany with the additions of those from Friesland and Holland and to publish them in Latin and Dutch”.


  • Part I: Der rupsen begin, voedzel en wonderbaare verandering. Amsterdam, for and sold by the author, sold by G. Valck, 1712.
  • Part II: Der rupsen begin, voedzel en wonderbaare verandering. Amsterdam, for and sold by the author, sold by G. Valck, 1712.

Posthumous Editions of Books by Maria Sibylla Merian

1717: Der rupsen begin, voedzel en wonderbaare verandering (The caterpillar’s wondrous metamorphosis and extraordinary nourishment from flowers); part III

Maria Sibylla Merian had already started working on a third volume of the Raupen or Rupsen (Dutch) book during her stay in the Labadist community at Waltha Castle (1685 or 1686 until 1691). She announced it in a business letter to the Nürnberg doctor and botanist Johann Georg Volkamer (1662 – 1744) in October 1702: “of the finds made in Holland and Friesland I plan to publish another part, provided there are people interested in it.” (See Letters)
Merian did not live to see its publication. The posthumous publication of her third Raupen book was arranged by her younger daughter Dorothea Maria in the year of her mother’s death. Both of Merian’s daughters may have been involved in the engravings. Like the two preceding volumes, the third contains fifty plates with descriptions of insect metamorphoses. However, the text is in Dutch rather than German, and is greatly truncated relative to the text in the first two German volumes. Along with the third volume adding fifty new plates, the first two were offered in Dutch along with it.  Again, the textual entries were very much shortened and give only descriptions of the organisms and very little of their biology. Moreover, additional insects were added on many if not most of the plates of the first two volumes.


Derde en laatste deel der Rupsen begin, voedzel, en wonderbaare verandering […]. In print gebracht en in’t licht gegeven door haar jongste dochter Dorothea Maria Henricie. Amsterdam, gedrukt voor de uytgeefster, 1717.

1718: Erucarum Ortus

Merian’s heirs entrusted the engraved plates and the manuscripts of the three Raupen books (caterpillar books) to the Amsterdam publisher Joannes Oosterwyk, who published the first Latin edition of all three volumes in 1718. In this edition, he separated the illustrations from the text pages.


Erucarum ortus, alimentum et paradoxa metamorphosis […]. Amsterdam, Joannes Oosterwyk, 1718.

1719-1730: Posthumous editions of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Transformations of the insects of Suriname)

Four editions of Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium using the original plates were published after her death – in 1719, 1726, 1730 and 1771. These editions contain the original sixty plates of the first edition. Moreover, twelve new engravings were added, featuring reptiles, amphibians and marsupials. Some of these plates were not by Merian, and there are questions about others. These illustrations may give insight into Merian’s ideas for a second volume that she would have published, would there have been sufficient interest. The Amsterdam publisher Joannes Oosterwyk published a Latin and a Dutch edition of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium in 1719. Seven years later, the publisher Pierre Gosse in The Hague issued another edition with the Latin and French texts side by side. In 1730 Jean Frederic Bernard produced a Dutch edition. A final edition from the original plates with Latin and French texts was published in 1771 by L.C. Desnos in Paris. This three volume work also includes the books on European caterpillars.


  • 1719: Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium […]. Amsterdam, Joannes Oosterwyk, 1719. Latin.
  • 1719: Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaemsche insecten […]. Amsterdam, Joannes Oosterwwyk, 1719. Dutch.
  • 1730: Over de voortteeling en wonderbaerlyke veranderingen der Surinaemsche Insecten […], Amsterdam, Jean Frederic Bernard, 1730. Dutch.
  • 1771: Histoire générale des insectes de Surinam et de toute l’Europe […]. Troisième édition, revue, corrigée & considérablement augmentée par M. Buch’oz. A laquelle on a joint une troisième partie qui traite des plus belles fleurs, telles que des plantes bulbeuses, liliacées, caryophillées… Tome premier [-troisième]. Paris, L.C. Desnos, 1771. French.

1730: De Europische insecten […] / Histoire des insectes […] (The European Insects)

After publishing the three volumes of the Raupen book in Latin, Joannes Oosterwyk sold the copper plates of the Raupen book and the Blumenbuch to the Amsterdam publisher Jean Frederic Bernard. He put into printed a large folio volume entitled Histoire des insectes de L’Europe […] in Amsterdam 1730. He assumed that this was the first publication of the Blumenbuch plates, which suggests that by this time Merian’s early work had already been forgotten. Bernard printed at least three, in most cases four illustrations on a single folio page. In addition to the French edition, he also issued an edition in Dutch. He may have chosen for the large folio format in an attempt to match the impressive design of Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium, Merian’s major work, which he published in the same year.


  • Histoire des insectes de L’Europe […]. Amsterdam, Jean Frederic Bernard, 1730.
  • De Europische insecten […]. Amsterdam, Jean Frederic Bernard, 1730.

Other Works

1705: Georg Rumphius, D’Amboinsche Rariteitkamer

It may have been that Maria Sibylla Merian has accepted a commission to do illustrations for the Amboinsche rariteitkamer of Georg Eberhard Rumphius, but evidence for this supposition is not yet found.


Georg Rumphius, D’Amboinsche Rariteitkamer […]. Amsterdam 1705.