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... Together with their Descriptions in English and French. London: Printed for Charles Marsh, Thomas Wilcox and Benjamin Stichall, 1754.
2 volumes, 2o (519 x 359 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, except for plates 61 and 96 in volume II by Georg Dionysius Ehret; handcolored engraved folding map (few plates and text leaves sprung, Magnolia plate 61, vol. II trimmed closely along fore-edge, a few marginal ink smudges to last few plates in vol. II, some occasional pale offsetting). Contemporary calf, spine gilt, tan morocco lettering-pieces (a bit dried, two panels of vol. I coming loose, board edges a bit rubbed).
Second edition, revised by George Edwards. 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 this 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. 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)