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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. 100, Frutex Spinosus Buxi

CATESBY, Mark (1683 – 1749) Vol.II, Tab. 100, Frutex Spinosus Buxi

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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 10 of Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida & the Bahama Islands
London: 1743 - 1771

Currently known as the zebra swallowtail, Protographium marcellus and lily thorn, prickly apple, Catesbaea spinosa*, Catesby described these subjects as follows:

FRUTEX Spinosus Buxi, foliis, plurimis simul nascentibus; flore tetrapetaloide, pendulo, sordide flavo, tubo longissimo; fructu ovali croceo, semina parva continente: CATESBEA Lycium Catesbeii, Authore D. Gronovio.

Calyx. Perianthium quadridentatum, mimimum, acutum, persistens.

Corolla. Monopetala, insundibuli-formis: Tubus omnium longissimus, rectus; superne sensim crassior. Limbus semiquadrisidus, latus, erecto-planus.

Stamina. Filamenta quatuor, intra collum tubienata. Antherae, oblongae erectae, corolla sere longiores.

Pistillum. Germen subrotundum, infra receptaculum floris. Stylus filiformis, longitudine corollae, Stigma simplex.

Pericarpium Bacca Ovalis, coronate, unilocularis.

Semina. Plura, angulata.

Near the Town of Nassaw, in Providence, one of the Bahama Islands, I saw two of there Trees growing, which were all I ever saw, the largest of them was about four Inches thick, and twelve or fourteen Feet in Height; the Bark was smooth, of a greenish russet Colour, and the Wood seemingly tough and hard: The Leaves were like those of Box, but smaller; they grow in Clusters round the Stalks, by Intervals of an Inch Space, more or less; from every Cluster shoots forth two sharp pliant Spines: The Flowers are tubulous, of a yellow Colour about six Inches long, hanging pendulous: They are monopetalous, being very small at the Calix, and wide at the Mouth, in Form of a Roman Trumpet, except that their Verge is divided into four deep Segments, which are usually reflected back.

The Fruit is of an Oval Form, and of the Size of a Pullet's Egg; the Flesh or Pulp of it is like; that of a ripe Apple, covered with a smooth yellow Skin; the Middle of the Fruit is hollow, containing many small triangular Seeds, adhering to a Pithy Placenta, which runs through the Fruit: The Fruit has an agreeable Tartness, and good Flavour, and seems as if it was capable of being improved by Cultivation, but is little known. In the Year 1726 there was several young Plants of it raised by many to whom I distributed Seeds, that I brought from Providence; but none were so successful in raising it, as Mr. Powers, a skilful and curious Gardiner, at Mr. Blathwait's of Derham, near Bath, who raised a Plant which produced many fair and ample Blossoms, some Specimens of which he sent to my Friend Mr. Peter Collinson, in the Year 1734.

PAPILIO caudatus Carolinianus; fuscus, striis pallescentibus; linea & maculis sanguineis subtus ornatus. Pet. Mus. p. 50. No 508.

The Back of this Butterfly is black, as is the Ground of the four Wings. Several white Lifts crosses the upper Wings obliquely; the two under Wings have likewise two white Lifts, extending downwards; they have besides four white Spots, with one red and a blue Spot in each Wing; the under Side of the Wing, besides several white Lines, has two red, and three blue Spots.

N.B. It is not without Reluctancy, that I here exhibit a Plant with my own Name annexed to it; but the Regard and Obligations I owe to my learned Friend Dr. J. F. Gronovius of Leyden, who was pleased some Years since to honour me, tho' undeservedly, with the Title of this Genus, obliges me not to supress it.

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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