Many people have heard of John James Audubon and his Birds of America, large (elephant folio size), beautifully detailed, brilliantly colored prints of native birds. Not so many people have heard of Mark Catesby, a British citizen who created and published a similar work over 100 years earlier, before the United States was an independent country.
The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. Histoire Naturelle de la Caroline, la Floride, & les Iles Bahama, first published in 1731, was one of the first studies of birds, plants, fish, and other "beasts" that lived in the colonies then belonging to Great Britain and Spain. Mark Catesby was a naturalist who spent a total of 11 years exploring, observing and recording the natural habitat of the southern areas of the continent newly occupied by Europeans. He returned to England and devoted 20 years to producing his Natural History.
Cleveland Public Library is fortunate to own one of the approximately 80 known intact copies of this work. The exquisite, hand-colored prints are a vivid record of the natural world that existed in the early years of American history. Come visit Special Collections on the 3rd floor of the Main Library to take a look at this beautiful book. Each page is more breath-taking than the last.