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Mark Catesby Volume II

Plates from Volume II of Mark Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands

CATESBY, Mark (1683 – 1749) Vol.II, Tab. 66, The Green Lizard of Jamaica, Logwood

CATESBY, Mark (1683 – 1749) Vol.II, Tab. 66, The Green Lizard of Jamaica, Logwood

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Painted and etched by Mark Catesby (1638 - 1749)
Etching with hand color, paper dimensions: approximately 14 x 19 inches
From Volume II, Part 9 of Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands
London: 1739 - 1771

Currently known as the Graham's anole, Anolis grahami and logwood or bloodwood tree, toxylum campechianum*, Catesby described these subjects as follows:

LACERTUS VIRIDIS JAMAICENSIS.

The Green Lizard of Jamaica.

This Lizard is usually six Inches long, of a shining grass green Colour. It is common in Jamaica, frequenting Hedges and Trees, but are not seen in Houses that I observed. When they are approach'd to, they by filling their Throat with Wind swell it into a globular Form, and a scarlet Colour, which when contracted the red disappears, and returns to the Colour of the rest of the Body. This swelling Action seems to proceed from menacing, or deterring one from coming near him, tho' they are inoffensive.

LIGNUM CAMPECHIANUM; species quaedam Brasil. Joh. de Laet. Sloan, Hist. Jamaic. Vol. II. p.183.

Logwood.

In the Year 1725, I saw three of these Trees in the Island of Providence, which were raised from Seeds brought from the Bay of Honduras, by Mr. Spatches, a Person of more than common Curiosity. He told me they were of three Years Growth, from the Seed, they were then about fourteen Feet high; their Truncs strait, and about seven or eight Inches thick; their Heads branching regularly, and being in full Blossom, made a beautiful Appearance. The Leaves are pinnated, consisting of four, and some five Pair of Lobes, set opposite to each other, and are in Shape of an Heart: From the Tops of the Branches shoot forth many Spikes of small pentapetalous yellow Flowers, every one of which before it opens, is covered with a purple Calyx. The Flowers are succeeded by final! flat Pods, about two inches long, which when ripe split open in the middle, and disclose five or six small flat Seeds.

The bloody Disputes which this useful Tree has occasioned between the Spaniards and English are too well known to say much of here, only I could wish that the Inhabitants of our Southern Plantations could be induced to propagate it, as well for their own Advantage, as that we may be supplied by them, when wholly deprived of getting it from the Spaniards, as we have hitherto done either by Force or Stealth.

If upon a Rock these Trees will in four Years bear Seeds, and grow to the Thickness of eight Inches, a much quicker Progress may be expected when planted in a deep moist Soil, which Jamaica and many other of our Islands abound in.

Mark Catesby (1683 – 1749)

Facts regarding Catesby’s early years are scant. It is known that he was born in the ancient market town of Sudbury, England to a father who was a legal practitioner and mayor of Sudbury and to a mother from an old Essex family.  It seems that he received an understanding of Latin and French and was familiar with the eminent naturalist Reverend John Ray. Following his father’s death, he was endowed with the means to pursue his interest in the natural history of North America.

Catesby arrived in Virginia in 1712 as the guest of his sister and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, an aid the Governor of the colony.  Soon he was acquainted with the well-connected William Byrd, a Fellow of the Royal Society whose diary contains passages discussing Catesby’s strong curiosity with all things relating to North America. 

This included plants native to the fields and woods of Virginia through which Catesby traveled, collecting examples of botanical specimens unfamiliar in England, which he illustrated and sent back to his uncle, Nicholas Jekyll and the apothecary and botanist, Samuel Dale.

Catesby’s first trip to the New World was extensive and included a visit to Jamaica. Although he felt that his approach to a larger understanding of its natural history was lacking in structure, his experience would inform his future expeditions. 

Following his return to London in 1719 Catesby resolved to return to the colonies and gather additional information for his illustrated Natural History... He gained the financial support of members of the local scientific community, many of who were members of the Royal Society keen to send a naturalist to Carolina who could provide an accurate account of its resources.  Among those who belonged to the Royal Society was William Sherard, who after examining Catesby’s drawings, was key in advancing the project. With further backing by Sir Hans Sloane, court physician and naturalist whose collection would form the basis for The British Museum, Catesby sailed to Carolina in 1722.

Catesby’s four years of travels following his second arrival in North America brought him throughout South Carolina, parts of Georgia, and the Bahamas. He was 

intent on visiting the same location at different times throughout the year in order to observe his subjects as they developed. In addition to gathering botanical specimens of potential horticultural importance, he also acquired birds and other creatures.  

Catesby’s patrons in London were eager to receive examples of the varieties of plants and animals he encountered but collecting, packaging, and sending them back to England served as a distraction to his intended Natural History...  Nevertheless, he continued to observe, paint, and write descriptions of the previously un-investigated wildlife he encountered on the shores and in the swamps, woods, and fields of the middle American colonies.

Catesby returned to England from his final voyage to America in 1726 and spent the next seventeen years preparing his Natural History... He envisioned his work containing colored plates reproducing his studies from nature in a substantial, folio-sized format, an achievement nearly unprecedented in earlier natural history publications. Catesby arranged for financing in the form of an interest-free loan from the Quaker Peter Collinson, a fellow of the Royal Society. Nevertheless, the cost of paying professionals to prepare his delineations on copper plates for printing was too great. To this end, with the assistance of Joseph Goupy (1689–1769), a French artist living in London, he taught himself to etch.  In addition to producing nearly all of the plates for his publication, Catesby closely supervised the coloring of the engravings, either painting the impressions himself or closely overseeing the work to insure its fidelity to his preparatory work. To further finance the project Catesby sold subscriptions, offering his book in sections of 20 plates to be published every four months.

The first volume of Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands, containing one hundred plates, was completed in 1731 and no doubt facilitated his election as a fellow of the Royal Society in February, 1733. The second volume, also containing one hundred plates, was finished in 1743 and was supplemented with twenty plates based on information sent to Catesby by John Bartram and others in in America appeared in 1746–1747. Of the approximately 180 - 200 copies of the first edition produced, roughly 80 copies remain complete and accounted for and there are an unknown number in private collections. A second edition was issued by George Edwards in 1754 and a third edition, published by Benjamin White, in 1771 who continued to print examples of the plates until at least 1816. As early as 1749 editions were produced for the European market with translations of the text in German, Latin, and Dutch. In these the plates for the first volume and appendix were re-etched by Johann Michael Seligmann and the plates for the second volume re-etched by Nicolaus Friedrich Eisenberger and Georg Lichtensteger.  

Catesby’s tenacity resulted in a sweeping and compelling study of American plants, animals, and marine life native to little documented lands in which he strove to assign scientific nomenclature to his subjects. Indeed, Linnaeus, in his 1758 Systema Naturae, made use of much information brought to light by Catesby using it as the foundation of his system of binomial nomenclature for American species.

Throughout the production of his Natural History…Catesby lived in London with his Elizabeth Rowland with whom he had four children and married in 1747, before his death in 1749.

*From James L. Reveal’s Identification of the plants and animals illustrated by Mark Catesby for The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama islands in the appendix of The Curious Mr. Catesby, University of Georgia Press.

Description compiled by Erik Brockett who is pleased to provide additional information relating to this or other examples of the work of Mark Catesby available at Arader Galleries. He can be contacted at erikbrockett@aradergalleries.com

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