CATESBY, Mark (?1679-1749). 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: Printed for C[harles] Marsh and T[homas] Wilcox, 1754.
2 volumes, large 2° (523 x 354 mm). Title-pages and text in English and French, text double-column. 220 hand-colored etched plates by and after Catesby, most signed with his monogram, 80 and 96 in volume II by Georg Dionysius Ehret; plate 80 double-page, hand-colored engraved folding map in vol. 1, watermarked Crown Shield G R or J. Whatman paper, all undated; this copy with two single dedication leaves in English: "To the Queen" and "To...the Princess of Wales" in vol. 1, the 20-pp. Appendix (pp. 101-120) and its single Index leaf (in English and Latin, with a list of the plates in French) at end of vol. 1, the 3-leaf Index to both volumes, in English, French and Latin, at end of vol. 2, vol.2 with "An Account of Carolina" (numbered [i]-xliv, with "vol. II" printed on the first page of each gathering). (Light offsetting of plates onto text, a few pale spots, primarily to text leaves.) Contemporary cats-paw calf gilt, spines in 8 compartments with 7 raised bands, brown and green morocco lettering-pieces gilt in 2, gilt-decorated in the remaining (corners worn, some light peeling, spines brittle, upper hinge vol. 1 starting). Provenance: Duke Georg Alexander of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1859-1909) German prince of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (bookplate on pastedowns).
Second Edition, the first edition of Edwards's revision of the text. Hunt describes the work as "The most famous colour-plate book of American plant and animal life... A fundamental and original work for the study of American species." Catesby as a young man studied the natural sciences in London and in 1712 travelled to Virginia, returning in 1719 with an extensive collection of plants. This collection attracted the attention of Sir Hans Sloane, who helped fund Catesby's second trip to Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the Bahamas from 1722 to 1729. Back in London, he prepared his natural history of the region, drawing a map from his own knowledge and engraving the majority of the plates to reduce the costs of his venture. The first edition was issued by Catesby in parts, completed in 1747, and was the earliest colored book on American birds. Its popularity was such that a second edition was required within five years of his death, undertaken by George Edwards and in 1754.
Anker 95; Ellis/Mengel 478; Fine Bird Books, p.65; McGill/Wood, p.282; Nissen IVB 177; Edwin Wolf 2nd, A Flock of Beautiful Birds (Philadelphia, 1977), pp.5-7 ("He was the first to observe and depict North American birds in their natural settings, combining ornithological details with botanical ones.")