MARK CATESBY, PIONEER NATURALIST: NEW BOOK
Exactly two years ago, I wrote about the publication of a lavish limited edition facsimile of Mark Catesby’s renowned work The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands in 4 volumes to mark the 300th anniversary of Catesby’s arrival in the New World. Unsurprisingly, the cost of the set was prodigious (a rather nice car) – but only a fraction of the cost of a vanishingly rare original set (a rather nice house). Reader, I didn’t buy one.
Now the CATESBY MEMORIAL TRUST has produced an excellent and inexpensive illustrated introduction to Catesby’s great work that will transport you back through the centuries to the earliest days of natural historical research by Europeans abroad. It’s worth remembering that Catesby antedated the more famous John James Audubon (1785-1851) by a whole century.
The new book has over 40 illustrations from Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. These are paired with relevant extracts from the work, and there is additional commentary. Click on Catesby’s Tropicbird below for a sample of the book.
Click me for book sample!
To buy the book – it’s $25 – click HERE
Mark Catesby – ‘Bahama Titmous’ (Bananaquit)
MARK CATESBY? JUST REMIND ME…
Mark Catesby (1683 – 1749) was a pioneering English naturalist and artist who published his magnum opus based on a number of expeditions he undertook from 1712 onwards. His was the first ever published account of the flora and fauna of North America, and the 2 volumes (with a supplement) included some 220 colour plates of the creatures and plants of land and sea that he had come across. After his travels, Catesby spent some 20 years producing his masterwork and died soon after, perhaps from the sheer effort of it all.
Red-legged Thrush in Gumbo Limbo Tree
AND HIS RELEVANCE TO THE BAHAMAS IS…?
On behalf of the Royal Society Catesby undertook expeditions, first to Carolina and then more widely in America and eventually in the Bahamas. On these trips he drew and painted detailed pictures of birds, fish, turtles, flowers and corals, many of which are familiar in the Bahamas to this day – and a few of which are included here.
Mark Catesby – Angelfish
Flamingo Head & Gorgonian Coral
Mark Catesby – Hawksbill Turtle
Mark Catesby (Black-faced Grassquit)
CHARLES CORY & ABACO 1891
THE PIONEERS (Wilson, Audubon, et al)
MR SWAINSON (on his 224th Birthday)
Bahama Finch (Western Spindalis)
Information about the Catesby Commemorative Trust and the book The Curious Mister Catesby can be found HERE. I have the book: it is wonderful, but as an amateur I find it quite a difficult read, and I have to take it in small chunks.
For anyone tempted to look further into the importance of this ground-breaking naturalist, the CCT produced a 50 minute film that is well worth watching if you are interested to know more.
Credits: HM QE2, Catesby Commemorative Trust, National Geographic, Mariners’ Museum Library, sundry open source info-&-pic-mines inc. Wiki, Addison Publs,
“Illuminating natural history is so particularly essential to the perfect understanding of it” (Mark Catesby)