CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749)
Anas Minor Purpureo Capite [The Buffel's Head Duck]
[Pl. 95, Vol. I] London: (1748-) 1754 [Second edition]. Hand-coloured copper engraving, on laid paper. Very good condition. Sheet size: 14 x 20 1/2"
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)
Mark Catesby's Natural History is a vibrant and original work in which each plate seems to have been created without preconceptions or habitual form, embodying wit and the love every true naturalist feels for nature's beings. Far from being a mere animal identifcation book, Catesby's work is a testament to the glory of nature and life.
The Bufflehead Duck is a small, beautiful diving duck that Catesby could have seen anywhere on the southern Atlantic coast. The black head as a lovely purplish sheen mentioned in the Latin title. Bufflehead is short for Buffalo Head, in reference to what appears to be his disproportionately large head.
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 a 'Natural History'; he travelled extensively in the Carolinas, Georgia, and the Bahamas, collecting specimens and making drawings from life. 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.
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.