Mark Catesby

(1682—1749) naturalist

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Painter and engraver. Also a naturalist and explorer. Catesby prepared both text and plates for the first illustrated treatise on the flora and fauna of North America, a two-volume masterwork acclaimed for its rigorous scientific observation and aesthetically compelling presentation. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1731–43) juxtaposes ecologically related species in 220 hand-colored etchings. The publication's colorful, vigorously conceived compositions gave visual form to a newly emerging notion of nature as a complex realm of interdependent elements, a view that influenced William Bartram's subsequent botanical endeavors and preceded by a century John James Audubon's celebrated achievements in picturing native species. Born in Castle Hedingham, Essex, England, Catesby worked for two periods in colonial America. In 1712 he arrived in Virginia, where he recorded data, produced drawings and watercolors, and collected specimens. Before returning to England in 1719, he also traveled to other areas, including the Caribbean and the Appalachian Mountains. Between 1722 and 1726 he resumed his research in the southeastern colonies. Most of the rest of his life was devoted to preparation and serial publication of his books, which went through numerous legitimate and pirated editions. He died in London.

Subjects: Art.

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