Mark Catesby

1683-1749

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.

 

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