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It is one of 72 counterproof engraved plates in contemporary colour of South American insects that illustrate a 1726, Den Haag edition of Maria Sybylla Merian’s Dissertatio de generatione et metamorphosibus insectorum Surinamensium. In a fine red morocco gilt binding bearing the arms of the Bourbon-Condé family, it sold for a premium-inclusive SwFr110,100 (£90,785) as part of a March 30-April 1 series of sales at Koller (25/22/15% buyer’s premium) of Zurich.

As reported in ATG No 2538, a 1719, ‘first complete’ edition of Merian’s …Insectorum Surinamensium sold for sold for £40,000 in the UK, at Dominic Winter of Gloucestershire on March 2 (plus 20% buyer’s premium).

Family outing

Accompanied by her daughter Dorothea, Merian spent two years in what was then a Dutch colonial territory in South America, collecting and illustrating specimens for a work that was first published in 1705.

Following their mother’s death in 1719, Merian’s other daughter, Johanna, added an extra 10 plates for this edition and two other related illustrations by Albert Seba were also included.