CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749)
Mergus [Hooded Merganser]
[Pl. 94, Vol. I] London: (1748-) 1754 [Second edition]. Hand-coloured copper engraving, on fine laid paper. Very good condition apart from a few creases at the edge of the top margin where the page was bound in. Sheet size: 13 15/16 x 19 7/8 inches. Plate mark: 10 3/8 x 13 3/4 inches.
A fine image from Catesby's 'The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands', "the most famous colour-plate book of American plant and animal life...a fundamental and original work for the study of American species." (Hunt)
The Hooded Merganser is primarily an inhabitant of wooded lakes, millponds, and rivers. Catesby described this beautiful bird as "somewhat less than a common tame duck; the eyes are yellow, the bill is black and narrow; the upper mandible hooked at the end, and both mandibles serrated...The head is crowned with a very larger circular crest, or tuft of feathers; the middle of which, on each side, is white and bordered round with black, which black extends to and covers the throat and neck. The breast and belly are white. The quill feathers of the wings are brown; just above which are some smaller feathers, whose exterior vanes are edged with white, with a little white intermixed in them, as in some of the other feathers likewise..."
Trained as a botanist, Catesby travelled to Virginia in 1712 and remained there for seven years, sending back to England collections of plants and seeds. With the encouragement of Sir Hans Sloane and others, Catesby returned to America in 1722 to seek materials for his 'Natural History'; he travelled extensively in Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Bahamas, sending back further specimens. His preface provides a lengthy account of the development of this work, including his decision to study with Joseph Goupy in order to learn to etch his plates himself to ensure accuracy and economy.
A lovely and important work, embodying the most impressive record made during the colonial period of the natural history of an American colony. The most significant work of American natural history before Audubon's Birds of America .
Cf. Anker 95; cf. Clark I:55; cf. Dunthorne 72; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990), p. 86; cf. Great Flower Books (1990), p.85; cf. Meisel III:340; cf. Nissen BBI 336, IVB 177; cf. Sabin 11509; cf. Stafleu & Cowan TL2 1057; cf. Wood p. 282; cf. Amy Meyers and Margaret Pritchard, Empire's Nature, Mark Catesby's New World Vision , Williamsburg, 1998; cf. Feduccia, Catesby's Birds of Colonial America (1985), pp. 57-8.