NABOKV-L post 0014667, Thu, 18 Jan 2007 08:50:37 -0800

17th century Artist turned Naturalist
From Carolyn to the List,

The name Maria Sibylla Merian was familiar to me from this List - - I
believe the Nabokov family library contained some of her work. I received a
new biography of the "artist turned naturalist" (blurb) entitled Chrysalis,
Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis - - who among us could
resist such a title? Not me, apparently and the book does look very
promising. More from the blurb:

"An artist turned naturalist known today mostly for her exquisite butterfly
prints, Maria Sibylla Merian was born just thirteen years after Galileo was
prosecuted for proclaiming the earth orbited the sun. ...

For two years she stalked the tropical wilderness [of South America] looking
for the caterpillars that were her passion .... [She was] one of the first
to describe metamorphosis at a time when theories of spontaneous generation
held sway ..."

The bibliography looks particularly promising: primary sources are Merian's
work and letters; other sources range from the ancients (Aristotle) to the
"early modern" (Bacon), from a 1703 advertisement in the transactions of The
Royal Society to works by Aphra Behn; names from Anthasius Kircher to Darwin
and Stephen Gould. Oh, and a certain Nabokov gets three mentions in the

In short - - looks very appetising,


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