The Mock Bird

Mark Catesby

Condition: Very Good No Binding
From Arader Galleries San Francisco (San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

A very detailed hand colored engraving by Mark Catesby (1683-1749 from his breathtaking series "The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands". This book was published in London 1731-1743 (first edition), 1751-1755 (second edition), 1771-1775 (third edition) c.1800 (fourth edition). Overall this print is 14” x 20” and is from the 3rd edition. In 1712, the English-born artist and naturalist Mark Catesby embarked on a series of expeditions to the southern colonies of British North America. Enthralled by the wildlife of the New World, he spent years traveling by foot through parts of present-day Virginia, Georgia, the Carolinas and the Bahamas. Over the course of his journeys, he encountered and documented uncountable varieties of animal and plant life that were entirely unknown to Europeans. His drawings and written observations were the raw material for an unprecedented project: a scientific account of previously uninvestigated wildlife, with illustrations taken from life. When Catesby returned to England from his final voyage to America in 1726, he was unable to afford the expense of having his drawings engraved professionally. Undeterred, he taught himself to etch with the assistance of Joseph Goupy, a French artist living in London, and went on to produce all but a few of the plates for his publication. He scrupulously monitored the coloring of the engravings, either painting the impressions himself or closely supervising the work to insure its fidelity to his preparatory studies. The result of Catesby’s tenacious effort was the most sweeping, complete and unique natural history study ever done. Widely considered a crowning achievement of 18th-century art and science, Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands has lost none of its power to delight in the 250 years since its publication. This remarkable study of American plants, animals, and marine life provided an important model for later artists, including John James Audubon, who followed in Catesby’s footsteps a century later. The works illustrated here are among the masterpieces of Catesby’s Natural History. The artist’s charming, distinctive style is immediately apparent in these engravings, and Catesby’s enthusiasm for his subjects is palpable. Aside from their esthetic charm, however, Catesby’s illustrations were significant for other reasons. His pioneering attempts to describe and portray birds accurately, life-sized, and in botanical settings set him apart from his contemporaries and foreshadowed the work of Audubon and Alexander Wilson. He was the first to abandon the Indian names for his subjects, trying to establish scientific names based on generic relationships. Indeed, the great Linnaeus, working on his Systema Naturae at this time, used Catesby’s work as the basis of his system of binomial nomenclature for American species. For all these and many other reasons, these are magnificent prints both for their beauty and importance. The quality of the work was so far superior to foregoing accounts that many scholars rank Catesby as the first real naturalist in America. Overall this print is in very good condition with some light foxing and staining. Also a few small tears along bottom margin. Bookseller Inventory # ae210d

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Mock Bird

Binding: No Binding

Book Condition:Very Good

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The world's largest selection of the works of John James Audubon, Pierre-Joseph Redoute, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, historically important maps, natural history engravings and watercolors, lithographs of the American West, Californiana, Hawaiiana and Western Americana. Located at 432 Jackson Street in Historic Jackson Square, San Francisco, and online at www.aradersf.com.

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