Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision

Article excerpt

Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision. Edited by Amy R. W. Meyers and Margaret Beck Pritchard. (Chapel Hill and London: Published by the University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, c. 1998. Pp. xx, 272. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 0-8078-4762-3; cloth, $60.00, ISBN 0-8078-2459-3.)

The English gentleman Mark Catesby (1683-1749) completed two lengthy scientific and horticultural excursions to Great Britain's American colonies. The result was a series of annotated etchings published as the Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. Although Catesby was respected by the naturalists of his day--he was known to such famous British naturalists as Sir Hans Sloane--his scientific work fell into low regard by the end of the eighteenth century, perhaps due to his rejection of the Linnaean system of nomenclature. The introduction by the editors of Empire's Nature provides an eminently readable short biography of Catesby, and the authors of the essays seek to bring Catesby the renown they think he deserves as a skilled and talented observer of American nature.

It is difficult to place this book into a particular category of historical literature. It is not primarily southern history, although Catesby's travels encompassed parts of the South and some of the authors do comment on his relations with notable southerners such as William Bird II. The authors focus more fully, however, on Catesby's extensive interactions with the British scientific, horticultural, and commercial communities. …

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