CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749)
[Pl. 3, Vol. I] London: 1731-43 [First edition]. Hand-coloured copper engraving, on fine laid paper. Sheet size: 17 3/8 x 11 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).
A small, nimble falcon resembling the peregrine falcon in miniature, the pigeon-hawk is one of the rarest types of falcon. It primarily subsists on small birds and insects and today does not commonly frequent the regions in which Catesby traveled. In his accompanying text, Catesby describes this remarkable bird as "a very swift and bold hawk, preying on pigeons and wild turkeys while they are young." (Feduccia, Catesby's Birds of Colonial America (1985), p. 36).
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.