A Unique Opportunity to own the Surinam Album
One of the foremost botanical and naturalist artists of all time, Maria Sibylla Merian's achievements have been recognised with no fewer than six plants, nine butterflies and two beetles being named after her.
The full set of the original watercolours from the British Museum has never been reproduced before, although Merian's early engravings are among the most collectable of all botanical art.
In this Folio Society facsimile these skilful original paintings, of great historical significance, are made available in a format worthy of their importance and beauty.‘We are delighted that this fine publication of the remarkable works of Maria Sibylla Merian will enable more people to share our own pleasure in her works’
The 91 paintings that form The Surinam Album were part of Sir Hans Sloane's founding bequest to the British Museum. Tsar Peter the Great also collected Merian's work and gave it to the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg. Looking at these paintings, it is easy to see why such great collectors wanted the originals for their museums.
A Rare Privilege
Carefully preserved in the British Museum, the 91 watercolours have never faded and the colours glow with all the intensity Merian must have felt as she first gazed on the lush splendour of the tropics. The vivid reds of the flowers and birds, the rich variety of greens and the brilliant flashes of colour on caterpillars and butterflies are astounding and required ground-breaking techniques to produce at the time Merian was painting. The Surinam Album is on display at the British Museum, but naturally only one plate at a time is visible. To get close to the detail and colour of these watercolours is a rare privilege.
"Studying these watercolours has been a great privilege. Every time I examine a painting my admiration for Merian as an artist grows and the more deeply I have researched her life and work"
Julie Harvey, Natural History Museum
Minuteness of Detail
Reproducing the complicated effects employed by Merian was difficult. She used black chalk to build up and emphasise the thickness of leaves and applied silver and gold to imitate the iridescent wings of butterflies or the shiny carapace of beetles, details clearly visible in the minute and accurate Folio Society facsimile. Each painting has been carefully photographed and the arduous colour-matching process has faithfully replicated even the oxidised whites and blues of the original 18th-century colour.
"A seventeenth-century woman whose boldness and vision would still be exceptional today"
Kim Todd, Merian's biographer
Each painting is individually sized, most measuring approximately 15" in length by 13½", and then individually hand-tipped onto the recto of the album paper. The paintings are printed on Furioso paper, which after numerous tests has given the closest look and feel to the original vellum, and provides superb colour and print quality. The album paper itself is a specially designed rag-paper, made uniquely for this limited edition. It is heavy enough to provide the support needed for the paintings, without creating an overly bulky book. All the paintings are attached along the spine-edge using a special glue which is designed for secure attachment without showing through or in any way damaging the paper.
Binding to Last
The album paper has been folded and sewn in such a way that each page has a guard which strengthens the spine, protects the pictures and allows the book to lie evenly flat. Without this method, the hand-tipped paintings cause 'dishing' due to the book's uneven thickness. The endpapers are heavyweight Hahnemuhle Burga Butten paper, adding to the binding's strength so that the album will bear frequent handling. The complex hand-folding and sewing has been entrusted to the small craft bindery of Smith Settle. In their workshop, the finest Nigerian goatskin leather is dyed and stretched to create a quarter binding over cloth.
A Worthy Design
The Folio Society commissioned David Eccles to produce a cover design directly inspired by Merian's depiction of Cancytius antaeus, the hawk moth found in plate 38. He has added tiny touches of gold along the antenna and wings to suggest the furred depth of the moth's body, just as Merian did with clever layering of paint. This design must be blocked twice before being over-printed, a technique which, given the expertise Merian shows in engraving, she would have been familiar with. Both the album and the protective solander have leather titling labels in black goatskin which is blocked in gold. The solander itself is a buckram-bound box designed to guard the fine binding from dust, light or other damage while also keeping the album easy to access. A sturdy inner panel holds the commentary volume underneath. This is bound in green cloth and printed on high-quality white laid paper.
A Readable, Lively Commentary
Julie Harvey of the Entomology Library at the Natural History Museum has written a fascinating introduction to Merian's work, setting it in context and providing an overview of her life and times.
Introduction by Julie Harvey of the Entomology Library at the Natural History Museum. Quarter bound in leather. Blocked in gold and silver with a design by David Eccles. Buckram-bound solander box. 91 pages. 91 facsimile prints tipped in by hand. 20¼" x 18"
"On command of his Majesty the Tsar, two large volumes containing loose parchment leaves on which are depicted with all the skill of the art of painting all manner of flowers, butterflies, flies, and other creatures"
Entry from the Treasury of the Imperial Household of Peter the Great on the purchase of Maria Sibylla Merian's work
Three Fine Art Prints selected from Surinam Album
Three paintings have been selected from the album and these standalone facsimile prints will be sent to you along with your order, free of charge, for you to mount and frame.
A large, colourful Blue Morpho Butterfly (Morpho deidamia) illustrated on the branch of the Barbados Cherry, (Malpighia punicifolioa).
An attractive Water-Hyacinth (Eichbornia crassipes) is shown with a large insect, a species of Lethocerus.
The impressive Harlequin Beetle is Acrocinus longimanus with the Orange-Barred Sulphur Butterfly (Phoebis philea).
Each print is sized approximately 14¾" x 11""Every one of her paintings depicts a drama in miniature"
Delivery of limited editions may take longer than standard editions. Please contact us for more information.