A botanist first and an ornithologist second, Mark Catesby is famous mainly because of
his impact on American ornithology. English born and trained, his talents as a naturalist
led the Royal Society of London to encourage him to visit the British colonies to collect
specimens and knowledge from the New World.
The greatest of Catesby's publications resulting from his American travels was The
Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, originally published in
1731-1743. This set is credited with being the only attempt of that period to cover the
entire natural history of a North American colony. The bird illustrations, with their
plant backgrounds, conveyed a tremendous amount of information.
Catesby's use of botanical settings, life-sized illustrations, and attempts at
animation set him apart from his 18th-century contemporaries, and clearly foreshadowed and
influenced the work of John James Audubon.