The illustrations above were designed by the German artist and naturalist, Maria Sibylla Merian. The plates were originally prepared for a mid-1670s book on the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies. However, the scientific community of the time largely ignored Merian’s work because it wasn’t published in Latin, the formal language of science.
Some forty years later, Merian finally reworked and expanded this earlier book on European insects. Sadly, she died shortly before the completed book - in Latin, finally - was readied for publication in 1717 as 'Erucarum Ortus..'. The full title of the book is said to translate as: 'The Miraculous Transformation and Unusual Flower-Food of Caterpillars'.
Merian’s portrayal of plants and insects in a semi-naturalistic way was something of a step forward in the world of scientific illustration. Many of her contemporaries ‘arranged’ the illustrated scenes to show man’s domination over nature, or took liberties with embellishment to impress and dazzle the audience.