Past Events

Mark Catesby's Natural History: The Art, the Science, the Publication

Research Seminar – Henrietta McBurney Ryan, Charlie Jarvis, Leslie K. Overstreet

  • 25 June 2014
  • 6:00 – 8:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre
The ivory-billed woodpecker and willow oak

Mark Catesby, The ivory-billed woodpecker and willow oak,

Digital image courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II / The Bridgeman Art Library

To be given by Henrietta McBurney Ryan, Senior Research Fellow, PMC; Dr Charlie Jarvis, Department of Life Sciences and the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research, Natural History Museum, London; and Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Mark Catesby (1683-1749), English naturalist and artist, produced one of the first fully illustrated natural history colour plate books of the eighteenth century, entitled The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731-47). Acting as his own publisher, the large folio-sized two-volume work was the culmination of Catesby's activities as a collector, explorer and painter in the British colonies of North America during the early part of the eighteenth century. This pioneering book was described at the end of the eighteenth century as 'the most splendid of its kind that England ever produced'.  

Three speakers will offer perspectives on the book and its contents from the different disciplines of art history, bibliography and natural science. They will discuss Catesby's images and his artistic practices, the method by which he published his book from the evidence of surviving copies, and his science, including the value of his images to systematists such as Carl Linnaeus, and the role of the associated specimens he preserved.  Participants from different disciplines are encouraged to take part in the discussion following the talks. 

To book your place please contact the Centre's Co-ordinator Ella Fleming on: efleming@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk