Curious about the flora and fauna that populated the Carolinas during the waning days of the Lords Proprietors? Check out the two volumes of Mark Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. We’ve just made it available online.
Catesby’s Natural History is generally credited as the first published work to provide illustrations and descriptions of North American flora and fauna. From 1722-1726 Catesby, an English naturalist, ranged over South Carolina, Georgia and the Bahamas sketching and collecting specimens of native plants and animals. Catesby used the samples gathered and the drawings completed during his trip, his second visit to North America, as the source material for his book. Although most often found as a two-volume set, Natural History was published in 11 discrete sections from 1734-1747 and sold by subscription. Although Catesby died in 1749, his work was republished in 1754 and again in 1771.
The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands includes an illustration of the Carolina Parrot (pictured above). Although now extinct, the species was abundant at the time of Catesby’s travels.
Catesby’s work also includes another bird now considered “critically endangered” and possibly extinct. Catesby referred to the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker as “the Largest White-bill Woodpecker,” and wrote that “the bills of these Birds are much valued by the Canada Indians, who make coronets of them for their Princes and great warriors, by fixing them round a wreath, with their points outward.”
Catesby’s illustration of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is among the 17 archival reproductions now available for purchase through the Library’s web portal with 1000 Museums. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be adding more Catesbys as well as other prints and photos from the North Carolina Collection to 1000 Museums.