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We are pleased to offer imperial folio engravings from the 1777 publishing of Mark Catesbys Natural History of the Carolinas, Florida and the Islands of the Bahamas. This magnificent early German / Latin edition was titled Piscium, Serpentum, Insectorum, aliorumque nonullorum Animalium. Nicholaus Friedrich Eisenberger and Georg Lichtensteiger issued the reprinting of volume two of Catesby’s work in 1750. It was so popular that it led to a second edition in 1777 from which these prints come, published by Johann Joseph Fleischmann in Nuremberg. Unlike the Seligmann edition, which was issued in a smaller format, this printing is imperial folio. It is the same size as the first, second, and 1771 edition. The paper and coloring are more desirable in this printing when compared to the 1771 edition which was printed on Whatman woven paper (which had a tendency to brown and become brittle). The engravings for the 1777 edition were printing on chain-linked, J. Honig & Zoonen watermarked paper often featuring a fleurs-de-lis.
Mark Catesby was the first American naturalist and illustrator. Though born in England in 1682, Catesby spent several years of his life in the colonies studying the natural flora and fauna. He was so fascinated he produced the first color plate, natural history work on American flora and fauna. One of the signatures of Catesbys work is that it incorporates plant and animal life on the same page. Combining the flora and fauna was to save time and money but also began a new style of print composition.
“Mark Catesby made a valuable and important contribution to ornithological illustration. He was confident enough to break new ground – to portray his birds more naturally than before, with foliage backgrounds, and to adopt the folio format. He depicted the natural history of one area in its entirety, and often drew from living models … AS HIS WAS THE EARLIEST PUBLISHED NATURAL HISTORY OF A PART OF THE NEW WORLD, HE HAS BEEN CALLED THE FATHER OF AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGY.” (Jackson)
Catesby set out to illustrate all the plants, birds, fish, and reptiles in America. His work greatly contributed to the natural sciences of the 18th century. Hunt describes the work as: “the most famous color-plate book of American plant and animal life, and a fundamental and original work for the study of American species. Engravers could not be afforded to get the work to print, so Catesby studied under Joseph Goupy where he learned how to etch the plates himself. The result of his dedication is this wonderfully detailed and informative work which gave a detailed view of the natural world of America.
Catesby’s work was also the first to abandon the Indian names for his subjects, trying to establish scientific names based on generic relationships. Linnaeus used Catesby’s work as the basis for his system of binomial nomenclature for the American species.
Provenance: Library of John M. Schiff