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Curious Mister Catesby

The Curious Mister Catesby:
A “Truly Ingenious” Naturalist Explores New Worlds

edited by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliot.

In 1712, English naturalist Mark Catesby (1683–1749) crossed the Atlantic to Virginia. After a seven-year stay, he returned to England with paintings of plants and animals he had studied. They sufficiently impressed other naturalists that in 1722 several Fellows of the Royal Society sponsored his return to North America. There Catesby cataloged the flora and fauna of the Carolinas and the Bahamas by gathering seeds and specimens, compiling notes, and making watercolor sketches. Going home to England after five years, he began the twenty-year task of writing, etching, and publishing his monumental The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.

Mark Catesby was a man of exceptional courage and determination combined with insatiable curiosity and multiple talents. Nevertheless no portrait of him is known. The international contributors to this volume review Catesby’s biography alongside the historical and scientific significance of his work. Ultimately, this lavishly illustrated volume advances knowledge of Catesby’s explorations, collections, artwork, and publications in order to reassess his importance within the pantheon of early naturalists.

The Curious Mister Catesby is included in our New Books List for May 18, 2015.

The Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library also holds Catesby’s 1754 edition of The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants: particulary the forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by authors.

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