CATESBY, Mark (ca 1679-1749). The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects, and Plants: Particularly, those not hitherto described, or incorrectly figured by former Authors, with their Descriptions in English and French. To which is prefixed, a new and correct Map of the Countries; with Observations to their Natural State, Inhabitants, and Productions... Revised by Mr. [George] Edwards. London: Printed for Benjamin White, 1771 [map and plates watermarked 1815-16].
2 volumes, large 2o (528 x 356 mm). Title-pages and text in English and French, text double-column. 1 leaf catalogue of Linnaean names bound at front of each volume, vol. II with 3 leaf Index at end. Hand-colored engraved folding map in volume one and 220 hand-colored etched plates, by and after Catesby and most signed with his monogram, except for plates 61 and 96 in vol. II by Georg Dionysius Ehret; etched head-pieces. Plates numbered in three series: 1-100; 1-100; and 1-20. Accompanying text numbered in two series: 1-100; 1-120. Modern brown half calf, marbled boards.
Third edition, later issue with all the plates on wove paper, without the two dedication leaves and leaf of subscribers (not required for this issue). Where visible, plates are watermarked "J. Whatman 1815[-16]." 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 printed for C. Marsh, T. Wilcox and B. Stichall in 1754. This third edition follows Edwards revisions of the second.
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.") (2)