The book that cannot be seen


For thirty years, Merianin compiled and  curated  her own personal archive of life drawings and annotations commonly referred to as the Book of Studies from which she drew the subjects for  her compositions to be engraved and printed. The book, firstly published in facsimile in 1976, also provides information on where and when the discoveries were made and on the evolution of the animal under observation. Through it, it is possible to understand Merianin’s method of study and work: from the Book of Studies she took the insect, larva or chrysalis that she then adapted to the composition with the nurse plant by using a method that today we would call ‘copy and paste’.

The Book of Studies was found in St. Petersburg where it arrived together with other purchases made by Tsar Peter the Great. Another monarch who admired Merianin was King George III, which is why some of her works are in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace; the second largest English collection of Merianin’s drawings and watercolours is at the British Museum.

On display are some pages from the facsimile of the Book of Studies that were used in the  book on the insects of Suriname and examples of an autograph text by Merianin.