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The Birds of Mark Catesby: On Exhibit at the Library

December 13, 2011, Volume 58, No. 15

Variety of the Feather’d Kind: The Birds of Mark Catesby is on exhibit now through February 24, in the Kamin Gallery, 1st floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.

English naturalist Mark Catesby (1683-1749) published a groundbreaking two-volume folio study of the flora and fauna of North America beginning in 1732. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands features stunning hand-colored illustrations noteworthy both for their subject matter and for their technique including “The Bahama Titmouse” [Bananaquit, Coereba Flaveola] (left). Eager to ensure accuracy of detail, he learned engraving so that he could create plates from the sketches he had made from life and from specimens collected in his travels. These images document not only the various species of birds, fish, and wildlife he encountered but, often, the plants or insects associated with them. On display are Penn’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s two editions: the first (1732-43) and the third (1771), along with full-color reproductions of approximately 40 of Catesby’s bird plates.

Almanac - December 13, 2011, Volume 58, No. 15