The Curious Mister Catesby
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The Curious Mister Catesby

A "Truly Ingenious" Naturalist Explores New Worlds

Title Details

Pages: 456

Illustrations: 237 color paintings, illus., and photos

Trim size: 8.000in x 11.000in



Pub Date: 03/01/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4726-4

List Price: $57.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books

The Curious Mister Catesby

A "Truly Ingenious" Naturalist Explores New Worlds

The most comprehensive study to date of Mark Catesby, his work, and his continuing impact—includes significant new information discovered by the authors

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  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards
  • Contributors

In 1712, English naturalist Mark Catesby (1683–1749) crossed the Atlantic to Virginia. After a seven-year stay, he returned to England with paintings of plants and animals he had studied. They sufficiently impressed other naturalists that in 1722 several Fellows of the Royal Society sponsored his return to North America. There Catesby cataloged the flora and fauna of the Carolinas and the Bahamas by gathering seeds and specimens, compiling notes, and making watercolor sketches. Going home to England after five years, he began the twenty-year task of writing, etching, and publishing his monumental The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.

Mark Catesby was a man of exceptional courage and determination combined with insatiable curiosity and multiple talents. Nevertheless no portrait of him is known. The international contributors to this volume review Catesby’s biography alongside the historical and scientific significance of his work. Ultimately, this lavishly illustrated volume advances knowledge of Catesby’s explorations, collections, artwork, and publications in order to reassess his importance within the pantheon of early naturalists.

Contributors: Kraig Adler, Aaron M. Bauer, Janet Browne, David J. Elliott, W. Hardy Eshbaugh, Kay Etheridge, Stephen A. Harris, Valerie Herbert, Suzanne Linder Hurley, C. E. Jarvis, Shepard Krech III, Mark Laird, Henrietta McBurney, Judith Magee, Sarah Meacham, Cynthia P. Neal, Charles Nelson, Leslie K. Overstreet, Florence F. J. M. Pieters, Ghillean T. Prance, Diana Preston, Michael Preston, Karen Reeds, James L. Reveal, Robert Robertson, Marcus B. Simpson, Jr.

Mark Catesby, the English naturalist and artist, as well as his considerable accomplishments, is given new life in this well-written, multiauthored account. Emphasis is placed on Catesby's travels in North America that led to his monumental volumes on the flora and fauna of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas. The book is an important addition to the library of the history of natural history of colonial America.

—William D. Anderson Jr., Professor of Marine Biology, Grice Marine Biological Laboratory, College of Charleston

The Curious Mister Catesby is an absorbing blend of early colonial history in the American Southeast and the Bahamas, with the rich fauna and flora the settlers freshly contained. Catesby emerges as one of the first true naturalists of the New World.

—Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus of Entomology, Harvard University

A landmark book filled with introspective and concise essays, each developed with a richness of detail, revealing the absorbing portrait of a self-taught artist from Suffolk who had an insatiable curiosity about nature. Wonderfully readable, this classic is an engaging introduction to Catesby's timeless illustrations and to his keen observation of the natural world. Like an investigation by forensic scientists the contemplative and thorough scholarship of these authors reveals new insight into Catesby, his journeys, his peers, and the inexhaustible pursuit of botanical and zoological specimens in an eighteenth-century world.

—Marian Hill, former president of the Garden Club of America

This comprehensive, lavishly illustrated work . . . will stand for many years as the best critical analysis of [Catesby's] work, and of the groundbreaking natural science that his curiosity inspired.

—Linda Lear, Nature

This remarkable commemorative publication represents the perspectives of two dozen learned contributors representative of a broad spectrum of disciplines, including historians, botanists, zoologists, ornithologists, anthropologists, landscape architects, fine arts authorities, museum specialists and associated fields. Each of the 22 chapters is an essay revealing another of the many layers of Catesby's genius.

—Ben MCC. Moise, The Post and Courier

As if one of Catesby's ivory-billed woodpeckers swooped down before your eyes, this work draws the once-mysterious Catesby out of the shadows and, fittingly, displays him in vibrant living color.

—Robert Salvo, Charleston Mercury

The Curious Mr. Catesby is important for the history of natural history as it offers so much to know and understand about this interesting man and his contributions to natural history.

—Charles Tancin, Huntia

For the book’s top-notch construction and amazing array of colored maps and illustrations, The University of Georgia Press should be commended, reminding us why the physical book is so worthy of praise. This book should find a deserved place on the shelf of both general and academic readers.

—Vaughn Scribner, The Journal for Southern Literature

With this prolific, informative, and superbly illustrated volume, Nelson and Elliott have re-established Catesby's reputation and secured a place for him in the pantheon of early naturalists. Advancing knowledge of Catesby's explorations, collections, artwork, and publications while introducing new audiences to the historical and scientific significance of his work, The Curious Mister Catesby is an unquestioned success.

—Barabara Spence Orsolits, South Carolina Historical Magazine

I remember learning about Catesby’s work... [through] a book by the University of Georgia Press called The Curious Mister Catesby. I had had the chance to look through this beautiful volume and can report this is one book you will most definitely appreciate holding and leafing through rather than reading electronically.

—Patricia Drackett, Director of the Crosby Arboretum


Annual Literature Award, Council of Botanical and Horticultural Librairies

Cynthia P. Neal

Shepard Krech

Kraig Adler

Aaron M. Bauer

Janet Browne

W. Hardy Eshbaugh

Kay Etheridge

Stephen A. Harris

Valerie Herbert

Suzanne Linder Hurley

C. E. Jarvis

Mark Laird

Judith Magee

Sarah Hand Meacham

Leslie K. Overstreet

Florence F. J. M. Pieters

Ghillean T. Prance

Diana Preston

Michael Preston

Karen Reeds

James L. Reveal

Robert Robertson

Henrietta McBurney Ryan

Marcus B. Simpson

About the Author/Editor

E. Charles Nelson (Editor)
E. CHARLES NELSON is a botanist who served for two decades as a horticultural taxonomist at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. He served as Honorary Editor of Archives of Natural History (1999-2012) and has written or edited, singly or collaboratively, nearly forty books. His most recent title is Shadow among Splendours: Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe's Adventures among the Flowers of Burma, 1897-1921.

David J. Elliott (Editor)
DAVID J. ELLIOT is founder, chairman, and now Honorary Trustee of the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy. He has been executive director of the Catesby Commemorative Trust since 2002.