The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects, and Plants . . . Together with their descriptions in English and French. London: for the author and sold by W. Innys, R. Manby and others, [1729--] 1731 [--1743--1747]
Folio (20 1/8 x 13 7/8 in.; 512 x 352 mm). Titles in English and French and printed in red and dedication leaves in each volume, list of "encouragers" (subscribers) in volume 1, text in parallel columns of English and French, engraved headpiece, woodcut initials, double-page handcolored engraved map, 220 handcolored etched plates by Catesby after Catesby (mostly with his cipher) and G. D. Ehret (3 plates, 2 signed); plate 25 (White Crown Pigeon) on wove paper and supplied from another copy, map starting at fold, occasional light spotting, vol. 1 page 67 with tear at head extending into text, one or two other short marginal tears. Contemporary calf; rebacked with repairs. 2 cloth-covered folding-cases.
first edition of "the most famous colorplate book of american plant and animal life. . . . It is a delightful and amusing book [and] a fundamental and original work for the study of American species" (Hunt). Catesby, born ca. 1679, was trained as a botanist and made two visits to America in 1712-1719 and 1722-1726. He travelled throughout Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and the Bahamas, collecting specimens (which went to Sir Hans Sloane), as well as live plants, many of which were grown by London nurserymen, including the Magnolia grandiflora.
Catesby also "made a valuable and important contribution to ornithological illustration. He was confident enough to break new ground--to portray his birds more naturally than before, with foliage backgrounds, and to adopt the folio format. He depicted the natural history in one area in its entirety, and often drew from living models. He was the first in a long line of ornithologists to teach himself to translate his drawings into a medium that produced multiple copies. As his was the earliest published natural history of a part of the New World, he has been called 'the father of American ornithology'" (Jackson).
Upon his return to London, he began preparing his book, and as he could not afford artists, he drew and engraved the plates himself, with the exception of three by Ehret (two of which are magnolias). Catesby is considered to have possibly served as a model for Audubon in setting animals against appropriate, often botanical, backgrounds. Linnaeus based a number of species on Catesby's plates and descriptions. The literature on his great work is vast.
a fine copy of the scarce first edition of this monumental work. No complete copies of the first edition have been offered at auction in over a decade. The last copies of this quality to be seen on the market were the H. Bradley Martin copy (Sotheby's New York, 7 June 1989, lot 65, $370,000) and the Horticultural Society of New York/de Belder copy (Sotheby's London, 27 April, 1987, lot 63, $243,000).
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