Matthäus Merian

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Matthäus Merian, engraving by Sebastian Furck

Matthäus Merian the Elder (born September 22, 1593 in Basel ; † June 19, 1650 in Langenschwalbach ) was a Swiss - German engraver and publisher from the noble Merian family in Basel . He published numerous maps , cityscapes and chronicles. His main work is the Topographia Germaniae .


Matthäus Merian

Matthäus Merian was born the son of Sägmüller and councilor Walther Merian . After attending grammar school, he learned drawing, engraving and etching from the Zurich copper engraver Friedrich Meyer . From 1610 to 1615 he studied and worked in Strasbourg (with Friedrich Brentel ), Nancy and Paris (with Jacques Callot ). His large Basel city map was created in Basel in 1615 .

After traveling through Augsburg , Stuttgart and the Netherlands , Merian came to Frankfurt am Main and Oppenheim in 1616 , where he worked for the publisher and engraver Johann Theodor de Bry ; de Bry owned a copper engraving shop in Oppenheim and a publishing house in Frankfurt, in which large travel books on the Far Eastern countries were prepared at that time. In 1617 Merian married Maria Magdalena de Bry, the daughter of his employer. During this time he also worked for the engraver and publisher Eberhard Kieser . In 1620 he moved back to his native Basel, where he acquired guild rights and started his own business. After the death of his father-in-law (1623) he continued his publishing house in Frankfurt and in 1626 acquired Frankfurt citizenship. In 1627 he took Wenceslaus Hollar into his workshop as a student.

After the death of his wife (1645), Merian married Johanna Sibylla Heim in 1646. From his first marriage come three daughters (Susanna Barbara, Margaretha and Maria Magdalena) and three sons: the two also work in his workshop, Matthäus Merian the Younger , Caspar Merian and Joachim. The daughter Maria Sibylla Merian , the natural scientist and artist, emerged from the second marriage .

Matthäus Merian died after a long illness on June 19, 1650 in Langenschwalbach near Wiesbaden. He was buried in the Peterskirchhof in Frankfurt. After his death, his sons Matthäus and Caspar took over the publishing house and continued to publish his works under the name Merian Erben .

Less well-known than his publishing activities is that Matthäus Merian dealt intensively with religious issues and drew strength from them. For him, it was primarily about the individual's being moved by the Spirit of God, less about the Church, the Bible and the sacraments. In 1637 he wrote following a Bible verse ( 1 Cor 2.14  LUT ):

"The natural man does not understand the spirit of God, it is a folly and great kezerey to him, and although he was the greatest doctor, and taught in all the schools of the world and could all the books of the Bible by heart, so help and serve nothing for bliss unless the Holy Spirit himself teaches inwardly in the soul. "

In this sense, Merian designed his coat of arms and publisher's signet , in which he included the motto Pietas contenta lucratur (for example: "Piety pays off") with a stork as heraldic animal.


Frankfurt from the southwest
Large city view of Heidelberg (copper engraving, 1620)
Title page of the Theatrum Europaeum
Session of the Reichstag in Regensburg in 1640

Of his artistic works, the following are to be mentioned above all:

  • 50 engravings in Michael Maier's work Atalanta fugiens , 1618 in the publishing of Merian father- de Bry published
  • the more than 250 small-format landscape sheets of the Basel region (1620–1625)
  • the view of the castle from the opposite side of the Neckar valley - what is meant is Heidelberg Castle (1620)
  • a 159-page picture Bible, Icones biblicae. Biblical illustrations depicting the main stories of the Scriptures. , Old and New Testament, with 78 copperplate engravings and short texts (verses) in Latin, German and partly in French (Frankfurt 1627)
  • the large bird show plan of Frankfurt am Main on four plates (1628, several revised editions up to 1770)
  • the 234 illustrations for the German Bible in the translation by Martin Luther (from 1545), printed by Lazarus Zetzner in Strasbourg; The copper engravings personally made by Merian were continuously inserted into the biblical text, which is why this Bible is also called the Merian Bible (1625–1630)
  • the historical chronicle with the texts of Johann Ludwig Gottfried (1629–1632)
  • the multi-volume work Theatrum Europaeum (1629–1650, continued by his heirs) on European topography and on the political and military events during the Thirty Years' War
  • the description of all kingdoms of the earth under the title Archontologica cosmica with texts by JL Gottfried (1638)
  • the dance of death of Basel ( Todten-Tanz [...]. De Bry, Frankfurt am Main 1644)
  • Gallia, Le Royaume de France. Franckreych (Frankfurt, ca.1649)
  • Warburg (Warburgum) . Engraving from the Topographia Westphaliae from 1647
    the Topographia Germaniae , his main work (from 1642), for which Martin Zeiler (1589–1661) wrote the texts. The Topographia Germaniae appeared from 1642 to 1654 in 16 volumes, which (continued after his death) until 1688 were followed by more with descriptions of other European areas, in particular France, Italy and Crete. The complete work finally contained 92 maps and 1486 copperplate engravings in 30 volumes with 2142 individual views of cities, towns, palaces, castles and monasteries. It also contains numerous city plans and maps as well as a world map. The Topographia was thus one of the largest publishing works of the time. The views taken by Merian from nature are masterful in perspective and often represent the oldest reliably documented views of the respective places as copper engravings or etchings .
  • Merian also took over the issues of the Great and Small Journeys , which Theodor de Bry had started in 1590 and whose son Johann Theodor de Bry , Merian's father-in-law, had continued. The works of Merian served Erik Dahlberg as direct inspiration for the Suecia antiqua et hodierna .
  • After the colored pen and ink drawings by C. Riecke and C. Steger 401 Impresen in copper for the fruitful society .
  • Musaeum Hermeticum , edition 1678


In 1967, it was possible to locate the point in Heidelberg from which Merian sketched his famous grand engraving of the city of the Palatinate Elector, the so-called Merian pulpit .

Wörth Castle and Market on the Danube , colored copper engraving

Individual evidence

  1. Margarete Pfister-Burkhalter: Iconographic overview of the portraits of Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717). In: Bulletin of the Swiss Bibliophile Society , Vol. 6, 1949, pp. 31–42.
  2. Matthäus Merian's grave with short biography in art in public space Frankfurt
  3. Footnote in the article Where Pierre Abelard taught: Sainte Geneviève and Saint Etienne, Paris (English)
  4. Theatrum Europaeum, or detailed and detailed description of all and every memorable stories, so here and there in the world for namely but in Europe and Teutsche Lands so much in religion as prophetic being from the year of Christ 1617 to the year 1629 ... described by M. Joannem Philippum Abelinum , ...; continued by H. Oraeus , Jo. Pet. Lotichius ...; with beautiful Lund panels brought to Kupffer ... adorned and published by Mathaeum Merian ... , Franckfurt am Mayn: bey W. Hoffmann, 1635–1652
  5. ^ Gallia, Le Royaume de France. Franckreych. M. Merian, Frankfurt am Main, approx. 1649. Digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  6. Musaeum Hermeticum 1678, Internet Archive


  • Catalog for exhibitions in the Museum für Kunsthandwerk Franckfurt am Mayn (September 15 - November 7, 1993) and in the Kunstmuseum Basel (November 27, 1993 - February 13, 1994) as an immortal honorary memory for the 400th birthday of the famous delineator (draftsman) , Incisoris (engraver) et Editoris (publisher) Matthaeus Merian des Aelteren. Museum of Arts and Crafts, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-88270-065-3 .
  • Jörg Diefenbacher: The Schwalbach trip. Mannheim 2002, ISBN 3-00-008209-3 .
  • Johann Heinrich Eckardt: Matthaeus Merian - A cultural-historical study. Reprint of the 2nd edition Kiel 1892 with a foreword by Carsten Berndt, Rockstuhl, Bad Langensalza 2015, ISBN 978-3-86777-960-9 .
  • Ulrike Valeria Fuss: Matthaeus Merian the Elder. From the lovely landscape to the theater of war - landscape as the backdrop of the 30 Years War. Frankfurt am Main, 2000, ISBN 3-631-35558-0 ; the same: snapshot and monumental view. A comparison between Valentin Wagner and Matthäus Merian d. Ä. In: Valentin Wagner (around 1610–1655): A draftsman in the Thirty Years War. Articles and catalog of works. Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-921254-92-2 .
  • Frieder Hepp: Matthaeus Merian in Heidelberg. Views of a city. Heidelberg 1993.
  • Karl Jost (Ed.): Matthaeus Merian. In: Bibliographical Lexicon of Swiss Art. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 1998, p. 708 f.
  • Peter Meinhold (Ed.): Matthaeus Merian: The pictures for the Bible - With texts from the Old and New Testament. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1965.
  • Abraham Melzer: The Bible. The colored Merian pictures for the Bible. Weiss, Dreieich 1988; Bechtermünz, Eltville am Rhein 1988. ISBN 3-927117-09-9 .
  • Götz J. Pfeiffer: Bild-Zeitung and Moral-Büchlein - the Thirty Years War in prints by Matthäus Merian and Abraham Hogenberg, Jacques Callot and Hans Ulrich Franck. In: The Thirty Years War in Hanau and the surrounding area. ed. from Hanauer Geschichtsverein, Hanau 2011, pp. 255–275.
  • Hans Georg Wehrens: Freiburg in the Topographia Germaniae by Matthäus Merian. In: Freiburg im Breisgau 1504–1803, woodcuts and copper engravings. Herder, Freiburg 2004, ISBN 3-451-20633-1 , p. 111 ff.
  • Joseph Eduard WesselyMerian . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1885, pp. 422-427.
  • Lucas Heinrich Wüthrich: Matthaeus Merian d. Ä. A biography. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2007 (licensed edition: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2007).
  • Lucas Wüthrich: Matthaeus Merian. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . October 30, 2008 , accessed January 22, 2020 .
  • Lucas Heinrich Wüthrich:  Merian, Matthaeus the Elder. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 17, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-428-00198-2 , pp. 135-138 ( digitized version ).
  • Lucas Heinrich Wüthrich: The graphic work of Matthäus Merian d.Ä. Volume 1 and 2: Basel 1966, Volume 4: Hamburg 1996.

Web links

Commons : Matthäus Merian  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Matthäus Merian  - Sources and full texts