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Mark Catesby's Illustrations

Magnolia Flower

A hand-colored, copperplate engraving based on an original watercolor by the naturalist artist Mark Catesby, features the flower of the Magnolia grandiflora tree. Catesby identified this particular species with a variant scientific name, Magnolia altissima, flore ingenti candido, and the common name "Laurel-Tree of Carolina." He illustrated other magnolia species as well, including the Magnolia altissimi, flore albo, which had been introduced to the artist by the Virginia botanist John Clayton. Catesby wrote: "Specimens of this Tree were first sent me in the year 1736, by my worthy friend John Clayton, Esq; of Virginia, and from the only Tree known in that country."

Catesby created the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America in his monumental work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, which was produced in London in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. The engraving shown here is from an oversized two-volume edition of that work published in 1771.

Original Author: Mark Catesby

Created: 1771

Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving

Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

The White headed Eagle.

This hand-colored etching of a bald eagle is the opening image of the 1731 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 1). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Bird weighs nine pounds … Tho' it is an Eagle of a small size, yet has great strength and spirit, preying on Pigs, Lambs, and Fawns … This Bird is called the Bald Eagle, both in Virginia and Carolina, tho' his head is as much feather'd as the other parts of his body."

Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Original Author: Mark Catesby

Created: 1731

Medium: Hand-colored etching

Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections

The Hawks-bill Turtle.

This hand-colored etching of a hawksbill sea turtle from the Bahamas is from the 1743 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 2). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Kind of Turtle receives its Name from the Form of its Mouth, resembling that of an [sic] Hawk's beak." This species, he noted, was particularly valued for the "Strength and Beauty" of its shell. In 2016, 6he hawksbill was a critically endangered sea turtle.

Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Original Author: Mark Catesby

Created: 1743

Medium: Hand-colored etching

Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections

Cancer terrestris.

This hand-colored etching of a land crab in the Bahamas is from the 1743 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 2). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby described how prolific the land crab was in the Bahamas and other tropical locales: "in some Places the Ground being almost covered with them, so thick they are, when out of their Holes that the Earth seems to move as they crawl about … They have been known to enter in at a Window, and on a Bed, where People who never before had seen any, were not a little surprised." He went on to write that some of the land crabs, especially the black ones, were poisonous; nonetheless, they were an important source of food for slaves. "In some of the Sugar Islands they are eat [sic] without Danger, and are no small help to the Negro Slaves, who on many of the Islands would fare very hard without them."

Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

Original Author: Mark Catesby

Created: 1743

Medium: Hand-colored etching

Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections

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  • Magnolia Flower

    A hand-colored, copperplate engraving based on an original watercolor by the naturalist artist Mark Catesby, features the flower of the Magnolia grandiflora tree. Catesby identified this particular species with a variant scientific name, Magnolia altissima, flore ingenti candido, and the common name "Laurel-Tree of Carolina." He illustrated other magnolia species as well, including the Magnolia altissimi, flore albo, which had been introduced to the artist by the Virginia botanist John Clayton. Catesby wrote: "Specimens of this Tree were first sent me in the year 1736, by my worthy friend John Clayton, Esq; of Virginia, and from the only Tree known in that country."

    Catesby created the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America in his monumental work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, which was produced in London in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. The engraving shown here is from an oversized two-volume edition of that work published in 1771.

    Original Author: Mark Catesby

    Created: 1771

    Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving

    Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

  • The White headed Eagle.

    This hand-colored etching of a bald eagle is the opening image of the 1731 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 1). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Bird weighs nine pounds … Tho' it is an Eagle of a small size, yet has great strength and spirit, preying on Pigs, Lambs, and Fawns … This Bird is called the Bald Eagle, both in Virginia and Carolina, tho' his head is as much feather'd as the other parts of his body."

    Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

    Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

    Original Author: Mark Catesby

    Created: 1731

    Medium: Hand-colored etching

    Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections

  • The Hawks-bill Turtle.

    This hand-colored etching of a hawksbill sea turtle from the Bahamas is from the 1743 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 2). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Kind of Turtle receives its Name from the Form of its Mouth, resembling that of an [sic] Hawk's beak." This species, he noted, was particularly valued for the "Strength and Beauty" of its shell. In 2016, 6he hawksbill was a critically endangered sea turtle.

    Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

    Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

    Original Author: Mark Catesby

    Created: 1743

    Medium: Hand-colored etching

    Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections

  • Cancer terrestris.

    This hand-colored etching of a land crab in the Bahamas is from the 1743 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 2). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby described how prolific the land crab was in the Bahamas and other tropical locales: "in some Places the Ground being almost covered with them, so thick they are, when out of their Holes that the Earth seems to move as they crawl about … They have been known to enter in at a Window, and on a Bed, where People who never before had seen any, were not a little surprised." He went on to write that some of the land crabs, especially the black ones, were poisonous; nonetheless, they were an important source of food for slaves. "In some of the Sugar Islands they are eat [sic] without Danger, and are no small help to the Negro Slaves, who on many of the Islands would fare very hard without them."

    Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

    Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

    Original Author: Mark Catesby

    Created: 1743

    Medium: Hand-colored etching

    Courtesy of University of Virginia Special Collections