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Merian, Matthew

MERIAN, MATTHEW (1593-1650), Swiss engraver, was born in Basel, on the asth of September 1593. The family came originally from near Delemont, but in his grandfather's time settled in Basel, where in 1553 it obtained the burghership of the city. As Matthew early showed signs of artistic tastes, he was placed (1609) under the care of Dietrich Meyer, a painter and engraver of Zurich (1572-1658). He went on to Nancy in 1613, where he already displayed considerable talents as an engraver on copper. After studying in Paris, Stuttgart (1616) and the Low Countries, he came to Frankfort, where in 1618 he married the eldest daughter of J. T. de Bry, who was a publisher and bookseller as well as an engraver. Merian worked for some time with his father-in-law in Oppenheim, but the returned to Basel, whence he came back (1624) to Frankfort after Bry's death (1623), in order to take over his business; this remained in his family till 1726, when, after a great fire that destroyed most of the books in stock, it came to an end. In 1625 Merian became a burgher of Frankfort, then the great centre of the book trade in Germany, and lived there till his death on the 22nd of June 1650. Among his many works two deserve to be specially mentioned. The first is the long series of works, each entitled Topographia, which contained descriptions of various countries, illustrated by copper plates, largely done by Merian himself, while the accompanying text was due to Martin Zeiller (1589-1661), an Austrian by birth. The first volume was published in 1642 and described Switzerland, with the Grisons and the Valais; it contains the first known view of the glaciers of Grindelwald. " Austria " appeared in 1649, but the volume relating to Upper Saxony and Bohemia (1650) was the last issued by Merian himself. " France " appeared in 1655-1656, while in 1688 the series (extending to 30 parts, in 1 8 vols.) came to an end with " Italy," the volume as to Rome having appeared in 1681. The other great enterprise of Merian was the series entitled Theatrum Europaeum, which appeared in 21 parts between 1635 and 1738 it is a historical chronicle of events in Europe from 1617 onwards. In 1625-1630 Merian published a series of illustrations to the Bible, and in 1649 a Dance of Death. But he is best remembered by his views of towns, which have very considerable historical value. His best pupil, Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), of Prague, settled in London (1635-1643, 1652-1677), and worthily carried on the Merian tradition. (W. A. B. C.)

See Life, by H. Eckardt (Basel, 1887).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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