Illuminating Natural History:
The Art and Science of Mark Catesby

Henrietta McBurney

Publicaton Date
June 2021
Standard Number
Yale University Press
384 pages, 284 x 246mm
250 colour + b-w illus.

This book explores the life and work of the eighteenth-century English artist, explorer, naturalist and author Mark Catesby (1683–1749). During Catesby’s lifetime, science was poised to shift from a world of amateur virtuosi to one of professional experts. He worked against a backdrop of global travel that incorporated collecting and direct observation of nature. Catesby spent two prolonged periods in the New World – in Virginia (1712–19) and South Carolina and the Bahamas (1722–26) – which he documented in Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, the first large-format, colour-plate book on the natural history of North America. Interweaving elements of art history, history of science, natural history illustration, painting materials, book history, paper studies, garden history and colonial history, this volume brings together a wealth of unpublished images as well as previously unpublished letters by Catesby, with contemporary accounts of his collecting and encounters in the wild, and details of the materials and techniques of packing and transporting plants and animals across the Atlantic.