In Focus: Catesby’s Natural History

Catesby's Natural History1st Ed., Vol. 1 (1731)

I am starting a new feature for 2018 called #HSAinFocus. In this series, I will select one particular scientific work to highlight across social media. To kick things off, I thought I would begin with one of my favorite works that was inspiration for creating HistSciArt.

Mark Catesby was an English naturalist, scientist, and scientific artist whose multi-volume series, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands was the first scientific work documenting the flora and fauna of North America. Volume 1 from the first edition was created over the period of 1729 to 1732, and this particular volume was digitized by Smithsonian Libraries for inclusion in Biodiversity Heritage Library. This volume covers many of the birds and plants that Catesby saw, including the now extinct Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) with a Swamp Cypress (Taxodium distichum) shown below.

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Carolina Parakeet with a Swamp Cypress

The header illustration features a Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) with a Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Read more about digitizing Catesby’s remarkable works on Biodiversity Heritage Library’s blog, as well as another post about the taxonomy additions to BHL’s Flickr albums. I was able to add taxonomy to these images with the published research found in The Curious Mister Catesby (2015). You can also read about Catesby’s SciArt Methodology here.