CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749). The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands,... London: W. Innys, R. Manby, Mr. Hauksbee and by the Author, 1731-1743.

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CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749). The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects and Plants. London: Printed at the Expence of the Author and Sold by W. Innys, R. Manby, Mr. Hauksbee and by the Author, 1731-1743.


2 volumes, folio (20 3/8 x 14 inches). Text in English and French, title-pages printed in red and black, dedication leaves in both volumes, 'Preface' bound in at the beginning of volume one, first issue of list of 'Encouragers' with 154 names bound in at the beginning of volume II, page numbers of 20 pages of text at the beginning of volume II corrected by hand as usual (bound without the Index, or the 44-page “Account” the country). Double-page hand-coloured engraved map bound at the front of volume one (supplied), and 200 fine engraved plates with original hand-colour, heightened with gum arabic, and with gold on plates 23 and 24 of volume one (some occasional spotting, plate 80 of volume II browned). Contemporary mottled calf, the spines in 8 compartments with 7 raised bands, gilt morocco lettering-pieces in the second of each, the others decorated with small gilt tools, with the supra libros of a Knight of the Garter stamped in gilt on the front cover of each volume (rebacked, preserving the original spines, extremities a bit scuffed).

Provenance: with the engraved bookplates of Francis Caesar de Tellier, Marquis de Courtanvaux (1718-1781), natural scientist, on the front paste-down of each volume, and his ink library stamps on each title-page and the verso of the last leaf in each volume, see the catalogue of his library dated 1782, item 676, 2 volumes as here; with the supra libros of George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland KG, PC (1758 – 1833), known as Viscount Trentham from 1758 to 1786, as Earl Gower from 1786 to 1803 and as The Marquess of Stafford from 1803 to 1833, Knight of the Garter from 1771, British politician, diplomat, landowner and patron of the arts, on the front cover of each volume, and his engraved armorial bookplate on the front paste-down of each volume.

THE RARE FIRST EDITION of the "THE MOST FAMOUS COLOR-PLATE BOOK OF AMERICAN PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE... a delightful and amusing book [and] a fundamental and original work for the study of American species" (Hunt).

With the first issue of the list of "Encouragers", but with page 37 of volume one corrected in the type rather than with an overslip. Originally issued in parts, with the preliminary leaves, including the dedication leaves, the Preface, the list of "Encouragers", the map, the Index to the whole work, and the 44-page "Account" of the country, all issued in 1743 with the last part. It is often the case that some or all of these leaves are absent, or that they are found bound within the second volume, as is the case with the list of "Encouragers" here.  Although four years later in 1747 Catesby published an Appendix with an extra 20 plates "to add plants and animals that remained from his own collections or had been sent to him after his return to England" (Overstreet), de Courtanvaux, the earliest owner of record for this example, did not have it, as the catalogue of his collection published in 1782 lists the book as item  676 with two volumes only. 

Catesby's preface details his two journeys to the New World and the development of his Natural History, including his decision to etch his plates himself in order to ensure both accuracy and economy. "Instead of perpetuating the previous stiff, profile manner of presentation, Catesby devised the method of mingling plants and animals in logical groupings, most often with accuracy and with proportional scale between figure and plant. He did his utmost to convey something of the particular habits or movements of each species. Simple though they are, he infused his compositions with a sense of movement and vitality not usual prior to his work" (Norelli). 

Catesby became a renowned naturalist, botanist, and ornithologist, partly as a result of the mentorship of the celebrated English naturalist John Ray. In 1712 "he went to Virginia to learn something of its natural history. He lived for a time with his older sister Elizabeth and her husband William Cocke, a physician who was secretary to the colony and later a member of the governor's council. Here he met a number of prominent Virginians, including William Byrd II, who shared with Catesby his knowledge of the colony's fauna and flora. Catesby spent much time collecting plant specimens and seeds, most of which were sent to collectors in England, principally Sir Hans Sloane, then head of the Royal Society.  

"In 1714 Catesby made his first trip to the Appalachians, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, where he continued to study native plants and animals. From 1716 to 1718 he appears to have been heavily involved in the management of his brother-in-law's personal affairs while the latter was in London on business for the colony. Catesby himself returned to England in 1719.

"In 1720 a group of prominent plant collectors in England, notably Sloane, William Sherard, Samuel Dale, Charles Dubois, and several others, decided to underwrite a second trip by Catesby to the Carolinas and the West Indies. His objective was to collect specimens and information about the natural history of the southeastern American colonies and the Bahamas. Discussions about this project had been ongoing for at least ten years, and Catesby was not the group's first choice for this assignment, but he accepted and departed for the colonies in January 1722. Much of his time was spent as a middleman between plant and seed collectors in England and America, packing specimens for shipment to his patrons in England. He also began drawing and painting watercolors of many birds, insects, animals, and plants. In addition, Catesby was interested in domesticating certain American plants, trees, and shrubs in England, and he also selected some plants for shipment to England that had commercial or medicinal value. By 1724 Catesby was extending his collecting and research into the neighboring Spanish colonies. During parts of 1725 and 1726 he was in the Bahamas, making additional collections and illustrations.

"Catesby returned to England from his second stay in the colonies in 1726, and he remained there for the remainder of his life. He had hoped that his backers would underwrite an illustrated account of his findings, but having supported his travels for more than four years, they concluded that this was as much as they were prepared to do. Catesby therefore undertook to do the job himself, and this was exacting and time-consuming work for one who had no experience in engraving and publishing. He received excellent guidance in etching and engraving from the French-born Joseph Goupy, and the Quaker merchant Peter Collinson loaned the impecunious artist funds that enabled him to continue with his project. William Sherard briefly aided Catesby with questions of Latin nomenclature prior to Sherard's death in 1728. Catesby did much of his own coloring to save scarce funds.

"Catesby was invited to exhibit the initial twenty plates of his projected book before the Royal Society in 1729. The book was published in parts and sold by subscription at a price of two guineas per part. During much of this period, Catesby supported himself by working in a nursery owned by Thomas Fairchild near London. He also grew many plants on his own, the proceeds from the sale of which also helped him eke out a living.  

"The first volume of The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was finally published at the end of 1732. This led to his election as a fellow of the Royal Society in April 1733. Catesby defrayed some of the expenses of membership by providing illustrations for the society's Register Book and by reviewing foreign publications to be distributed to the membership. In 1735 he was asked to assess the first edition of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae, a task he declined, in part because he felt his lack of a scientific background. It is possible, however, that the two men met when Linnaeus visited England in the summer of 1736.

"Catesby continued work on the second volume of his Natural History for eleven years, completing it in December 1743. Three years later an illustrated Appendix [not present here], essentially a compilation of work done by John Bartram and other botanists, was published... Catesby was not a well-trained naturalist, and his artistry was not distinguished. Nevertheless, his Natural History, containing as it did illustrations of plants and animals in their natural settings, was a major achievement, adumbrating John James Audubon's great work a century later. Catesby's reputation rests primarily on this book... Catesby's Natural History was for many years a major source of information for those interested in American plants and animals. Other late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century naturalists, including Linnaeus, Brisson, Buffon, and Kalm, cited and depended upon his work. Long considered the father of American ornithology, he is also regarded as a pioneering American ecologist" (Keir B. Sterling for ANB).

From the distinguished library of Francis Caesar de Tellier, Marquis de Courtanvaux, who initially embarked on a military career until ill-health forced him to resign in 1745. He subsequently took up the the study of the natural sciences, and was elected to the Academie des Sciences in 1764. He published Journal du voyage de M. Le Marquis de Courtanvaux, sur le Fregate l'Aurore, pour essayer par ordre de l'Academie, plusieurs instrumens relatifs a la Longitude. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1768, as his report of a voyage in the frigate l'Aurore - a vessel that Courtanvaux fitted out at his own expense to allow for the accurate assessment under everyday conditions of the various competitors for the prize offered by the Academie (for the first successful method of accurately measuring longitude)" (Norman 1335). 

Also from the distinguished library of George Granville Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke of Sutherland KG, PC (1758 – 1833), known as Viscount Trentham from 1758 to 1786, as Earl Gower from 1786 to 1803 and as The Marquess of Stafford from 1803 to 1833, British politician, diplomat, landowner and patron of the arts. Stafford's success in "politics was matched by, and at least partly based on, the successful exploitation of his lands in Staffordshire, where he was one of the largest landowners, and in Shropshire. In addition to increasing his agricultural rents by careful management, he obtained a growing income from mining. His efforts also extended to the economic development of both counties, for he was an enthusiastic patron of canal building, an interest he shared with his brother-in-law, Francis Egerton, the ‘canal duke’ of Bridgewater. It was through Stafford's land agent that Bridgewater was introduced to the engineer James Brindley. Instrumental in obtaining the necessary legislation for the Trent and Mersey and other canals, Stafford also used his political influence for the advantage of local industries, particularly the Staffordshire potters, and he enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with Josiah Wedgwood. Not surprisingly, Stafford was one of the most influential figures in Staffordshire, where he served as lord lieutenant of the county from 1755 until 1800 and as high steward of Stafford from 1769 until his death. He exercised considerable electoral influence, controlling one of the parliamentary seats for Lichfield and strongly influencing both seats at Newcastle under Lyme.

"Stafford's long career was marked by a variety of honours. He was named to the privy council in 1755 and became a knight of the Garter in 1771 (in succession to the duke of Bedford). He was also a governor of Charterhouse (1757) and elected a fellow of the Society of Arts in 1784. He was one of his generation's most durable and successful political figures: in an active political career that spanned fifty years, he spent thirty-six years in office, though never in a post of departmental responsibility, and twenty-seven years in cabinet, including his time as lord chamberlain when he attended cabinet meetings (William C. Lowe for DNB). Anker 95; Dunthorne 72; Fine Bird Books, p.65; Great Flower Books, p.53; Nissen BBI 336, IVB 177; Leslie K. Overstreet "The Publication of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Caroline, Florida and the Bahama Islands" in "The Curious Mister Catesby", chapter 12; Sabin 11509; Stafleu TL2 1057; Wood, p.282.