CATESBY, Mark (1683-1749). The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects, and Plants ... Together with their Descriptions in English and French. London: for the author [1729-] 1731 [-1743-1747-1771].
2 volumes, comprising 10 parts and Appendix, bound in 3 volumes, 2° (517 x 353 mm). Volume I, part 1 (pp. 1-20) in third setting of type; parts 2-4 (pp. 21-80) in second setting of type; the remainder in first and only setting. Title-pages printed in red and black in English and French, text in parallel columns of English and French, with the list of 'encouragers' (subscribers list without the name 'Iley'), dedication leaf in each volume (vol. I, Queen; vol. II, Princess of Wales), 'An Account of Carolina, and the Bahama Islands' bound following plates and descriptive text of volume II with an etched headpiece by Catesby and historiated woodcut initials and tailpiece, 3-leaf index to volumes I and II bound at end of volume II, single-leaf index to Appendix bound in volume III with the Appendix text and plates and the 2 leaves of Linnaean names issued with the 3rd edition of 1771 (as per the Hunt copy), first 20 text pages of volume II with page numbers altered to 1-20 from 120-140, text and plates on undated paper watermarked with various crowned shields; 220 fine handcoloured etched plates after and by Catesby and mostly signed with his cipher, excepting plates 61 and 96 in volume II by G.D. Ehret, double-page handcoloured engraved map in volume II. (Some mostly light but variable offsetting, very occasional light spotting, without title-page to volume II but with a duplicate of that to volume I bound in its stead with contemporary ink manuscript emendation to volume numbers, evidently a contemporary substitution, plate I.66 with a short marginal tear.) Volumes I and II in contemporary diced russia, covers with gilt borders of interwoven stylized acorns and flowers, spines gilt in compartments with green morocco labels, gilt edges, volume III (Appendix) in contemporary calf-backed marbled boards, spine gilt in compartments with similar, but narrowed, design as volumes I and II, green morocco labels, yellow edges (extremities lightly rubbed, covers to volume I lightly mottled and with tiny loss to head of spine). Provenance: John Stuart, third Earl of Bute (the original subscriber, with his name appearing in the list of 'encouragers', his armorial bookplate on verso of both titles) --The Earl of Tankerville (probably Charles Augustus Bennett, the fifth Earl, with the Chillingham Castle label on each front pastedown and press-ticket [942-44] on each front free endpaper) -- Bradley Martin (bookplates; sold at Sotheby's New York, 7 June 1989, lot 65).
FIRST EDITION. A MAGNIFICENT SUBSCRIBER'S COPY OF 'THE ONLY ATTEMPT TO RECORD THE NATURAL HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN COLONY IN COLONIAL TIMES' (Jackson). Little is known of Catesby's early years, but it seems that he met the naturalist John Ray during his childhood which triggered his interest in natural history. From 1712, after his father's death, Catesby went to live in Virginia with his sister, Elizabeth and her husband. During this time he sent seeds and botanical specimens to a Hoxton nurseryman, Thomas Fairchild, and this generated much interest in scientific circles. Catesby returned to London in 1719, and in 1722, he was recommended to head a Royal Society funded plant-hunting expedition to Carolina. By October of that year he was sending back to London significant quantities of dried plants, many of which were new to science. Sir Hans Sloane was particularly interested in the expedition and specimens were sent directly to him by Catesby. Catesby seems to have soon widened his interests to include zoological specimens; in a letter of 10 May 1723 to Sloane, he asks for 'another case of bottles for snakes and boxes for birds' (Sloane Mss 4046, ff.352-53). After four years in the Americas, Catesby returned to London in 1726, and proceeded to devote the next 21 years to the publication of The Natural History of Carolina.
'THE MOST FAMOUS COLOR-PLATE BOOK OF AMERICAN PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE ... It is a delightful and amusing book [and] a fundamental and original work for the study of American species' (Hunt). '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). The present work conforms to George III's copy (British Library 44.K.7-8, for vols I-II). Dunthorne 72; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.86; Great Flower Books (1990) p.85-86; Hunt 486; Jackson Etchings 76-87; Nissen BBI 336; Nissen IVB 177; Nissen ZBI 842; Pritzel 1602.
We would like to thank Leslie Overstreet, Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, for her help in cataloguing this lot and providing new information about publication states. (3)