CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749) Appendix Pl. 10, The Largest Crested Heron

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Painted and etched by Mark Catesby (1638 - 1749)
Etching with hand color, paper dimensions: approximately 14 x 19 inches
From the Appendix (Part 11) to Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands
London: 1747 - 1771

This plate contains the following subjects:

figure 1, The largest crested heron,currently known as the great blue heron, Ardea herodias

figure 2, The spotted eft, currently known as the spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum  

figure 3, The chego, currently known as the chigoe flea, Tunga penetrans     

figure 4, a beetle, possibly Carabidae

figure 5, The Cockroach, currently known as the American cockroach, Periplanetaamericana

figure 6, Blatta maxima susca peltata currently known as the dubia cockroach,  Blaptica dubia 

figure 7, Scarahaus Peltatus, currently known as theAmerican carrion beetle, Necrophila americana*

Catesby described them as follows:



The largest crested HERON. Fig. I. 

As I did not measure the length of this Bird, I can only guess it to be not less than four feet and an half high, when erect. The bill measured almost eight inches from the angle of the mouth to the end of it; and was of a yellowish brown colour behind the eyes; and under the throat of a light brownish yellow. The crest on its head was made up of long narrow brown feathers, the longest being five inches in length, which it could, erect and let fall at pleasure. The neck and breast brown, but; paler, and spotted on the under- part. The rest of the body and legs brown, except the quill feathers, which are black. They feed not only on Fish and Frogs, but on Lizards, Efts, &c. They are natives of Virginia

 Stellio aquaticus minor Americanus.

The SPOTTED EFT. Fig. 2. 

These are found in ditches, ponds, and standing-waters, and are the food of Herons and Serpents. This was five inches long, having a large head. It had four toes on each of the fore-feet, and five on the hind-feet, a double row of white round spots extending from the crown of the head to the hind-legs, from which to the end of the tail they were single. They are as inoffensive as our common Water- Efts.

Pulex minimus, cutem penetrans, Americanus. 

The CHEGO. Fig. 3. 

It is a very small kind of Flea, that is found only in warm climates ; it is a verytroublesome Infect, especially to Negroes and others that go bare-foot, and are slovenly. They penetrate the skin, under which they lay a bunch or bag of eggs which
swell to the bigness of a small pea or tare, and give great pain till 'tis taken out; to perform which, great care is required for fear of breaking the bag, which endangers a
mortification, and the loss of a leg, and sometimes life itself. This Insect, in its natural
size, is not above a fourth part so big as the common Flea, but magnified by a Microscope it appeared of the size of the figure here represented. From the mouth issued a hollow tube, like that of the common Flea, between a pair of antennae. It had six jointed legs, and something resembling a tail under which is represented one of its eggs, the size of which is so small that it can hardly be discerned by the naked eye; but magnified by a glass, appeared as here represented. These Chegoes are a nusance to most parts 0f America between the Tropicks. See Sir Hans Sloane’s His. Jamaic. Introd. P. CXXIV. and Vol. II. p. 191, 192. 

Scarabaeus capricornus minimus cutem penetrans. 

Fig. 4.

In the year 1725, I being at the house of his Excellency Mr. Phinney, then Governor
of the Bahama Islands, who as he was searching of his feet for Chegoes, at the time we were viewing them through a Microscope, produced an odd Insect on the point of his needle as at Fig. 4. which he then picked out of his foot. I shewed it to Negroes and others, and none of them had seen the like. The natural size of this Insect was that
of the spot over its head; but magnified, it appeared of the size and form here ex- 
exhibited. I think it may be called as above. 

Blatta Americana. 

The COCKROACH. Fig. 5. 

These are very troublesome and destructive Vermin, and are so numerous and voracious, that it is impossible to keep Victuals of any kind from being devoured
by them, without close covering. They are flat, and so thin that few chests or boxes can
exclude them. They eat not only leather, parchment and woollen, but linen and paper. 
They disappear in Winter, and appear most numerous in the hottest days in Summer. It
is at night they commit their depredations, and bite people in their beds, especially childrens fingers that are greasy. They lay innumerable eggs, creeping into the holes of old walls and rubbish, where they lie torpid all the Winter. Some have wings, and others are without, perhaps of different Sexes.

Blatta maxima susca peltata. Fig. 6. 

 This is three times bigger than the common Cockroach. The head and part of the thorax was covered with an hemispherical shining hard shield, from under which proceeded two other membranes of the like confidence, which covered part of the abdomen. The abdomen was crossed with eight annuii of a shining brown colour. The face of it had somewhat the resemblance of a Monkey. The antennae were about an inch long. It had six legs, each having three joints, the lowermost joint set with sharp prickles, and crooked claws at their ends. They are found in Carolina. What they subsist on, and in what manner they are propagated, I know not, having seen but this one of the kind.

Scarahaus Peltatus. Fig. 7. 

A Membranous yellow shield, with a dark brown spot in the middle of it, covered part of the Head and thorax; the wings covering the remaining part of the body, which were of a dusky purple, motled with shining spots of the fame colour. It had six black legs, each leg having two joints only. Each wing was strengthned within-fide by a thin membranous yellow ridge extending the length of them. The remaining underpart of the wing of a shining green colour. This Insect was from Pensylvania

Mark Catesby (1683 – 1749)

Facts regarding Catesby’s early years are scant. It is known that he was born in the ancient market town of Sudbury, England to a father who was a legal practitioner and mayor of Sudbury and to a mother from an old Essex family.  It seems that he received an understanding of Latin and French and was familiar with the eminent naturalist Reverend John Ray. Following his father’s death, he was endowed with the means to pursue his interest in the natural history of North America.

Catesby arrived in Virginia in 1712 as the guest of his sister and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, an aid the Governor of the colony.  Soon he was acquainted with the well-connected William Byrd, a Fellow of the Royal Society whose diary contains passages discussing Catesby’s strong curiosity with all things relating to North America. 

This included plants native to the fields and woods of Virginia through which Catesby traveled, collecting examples of botanical specimens unfamiliar in England, which he illustrated and sent back to his uncle, Nicholas Jekyll and the apothecary and botanist, Samuel Dale.

Catesby’s first trip to the New World was extensive and included a visit to Jamaica. Although he felt that his approach to a larger understanding of its natural history was lacking in structure, his experience would inform his future expeditions. 

Following his return to London in 1719 Catesby resolved to return to the colonies and gather additional information for his illustrated Natural History... He gained the financial support of members of the local scientific community, many of who were members of the Royal Society keen to send a naturalist to Carolina who could provide an accurate account of its resources.  Among those who belonged to the Royal Society was William Sherard, who after examining Catesby’s drawings, was key in advancing the project. With further backing by Sir Hans Sloane, court physician and naturalist whose collection would form the basis for The British Museum, Catesby sailed to Carolina in 1722.

Catesby’s four years of travels following his second arrival in North America brought him throughout South Carolina, parts of Georgia, and the Bahamas. He was 

intent on visiting the same location at different times throughout the year in order to observe his subjects as they developed. In addition to gathering botanical specimens of potential horticultural importance, he also acquired birds and other creatures.  

Catesby’s patrons in London were eager to receive examples of the varieties of plants and animals he encountered but collecting, packaging, and sending them back to England served as a distraction to his intended Natural History...  Nevertheless, he continued to observe, paint, and write descriptions of the previously un-investigated wildlife he encountered on the shores and in the swamps, woods, and fields of the middle American colonies.

Catesby returned to England from his final voyage to America in 1726 and spent the next seventeen years preparing his Natural History... He envisioned his work containing colored plates reproducing his studies from nature in a substantial, folio-sized format, an achievement nearly unprecedented in earlier natural history publications. Catesby arranged for financing in the form of an interest-free loan from the Quaker Peter Collinson, a fellow of the Royal Society. Nevertheless, the cost of paying professionals to prepare his delineations on copper plates for printing was too great. To this end, with the assistance of Joseph Goupy (1689–1769), a French artist living in London, he taught himself to etch.  In addition to producing nearly all of the plates for his publication, Catesby closely supervised the coloring of the engravings, either painting the impressions himself or closely overseeing the work to insure its fidelity to his preparatory work. To further finance the project Catesby sold subscriptions, offering his book in sections of 20 plates to be published every four months.

The first volume of Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands, containing one hundred plates, was completed in 1731 and no doubt facilitated his election as a fellow of the Royal Society in February, 1733. The second volume, also containing one hundred plates, was finished in 1743 and was supplemented with twenty plates based on information sent to Catesby by John Bartram and others in in America appeared in 1746–1747. Of the approximately 180 - 200 copies of the first edition produced, roughly 80 copies remain complete and accounted for and there are an unknown number in private collections. A second edition was issued by George Edwards in 1754 and a third edition, published by Benjamin White, in 1771 who continued to print examples of the plates until at least 1816. As early as 1749 editions were produced for the European market with translations of the text in German, Latin, and Dutch. In these the plates for the first volume and appendix were re-etched by Johann Michael Seligmann and the plates for the second volume re-etched by Nicolaus Friedrich Eisenberger and Georg Lichtensteger.  

Catesby’s tenacity resulted in a sweeping and compelling study of American plants, animals, and marine life native to little documented lands in which he strove to assign scientific nomenclature to his subjects. Indeed, Linnaeus, in his 1758 Systema Naturae, made use of much information brought to light by Catesby using it as the foundation of his system of binomial nomenclature for American species.

Throughout the production of his Natural History…Catesby lived in London with his Elizabeth Rowland with whom he had four children and married in 1747, before his death in 1749.

*From James L. Reveal’s Identification of the plants and animals illustrated by Mark Catesby for The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama islands in the appendix of The Curious Mr. Catesby, University of Georgia Press.