FIRST EDITION. Mark Catesby’s map of the southeast is one of the finest of the period and accompanied his remarkable “Natural History”. It is “the most famous colour plate book of American plant and animal life” (Hunt), the first American colour plate book of flora and fauna and made a major contribution to the study of natural sciences. Mark Catesby was born 24 March 1683 to John Catesby a lawyer and Elizabeth Jekyll, both of prominent families in Castle Hedingham, Essex. He studied natural science in London but otherwise had limited formal education. Perhaps influenced by Sir Hans Sloane’s “A Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbados, Nieves …” published in 1707 and the presence of his sister in the American colonies he made the first of two trips 1712-19. He arrived on the 23 April 1712 and visited his sister Elizabeth Cocke in Williamsburg, Virginia, wife of Dr. William Cocke secretary to the Governor of the colony at the time. His position afforded Catesby numerous introductions to the prominent Americans of the day. He made a voyage to the West Indies in 1714 but otherwise remained in Virginia sending back seeds and on his return in 1719 carried back specimens to Sir Hans Sloane, President of the Royal Society and Dr William Sherard. His return to England and the samples he had supplied opened doors to sponsorship and encouragement for a second voyage this time with the purpose of a publication about the natural history of the southeast American colonies.
His second voyage 1722-26 began on his arrival in Charleston in May 1722. He travelled through the Carolinas including Georgia as it would become in 1733, Florida and the Bahamas. Returning to London in 1726 he started work on the preparation for his book which would consume the next twenty years of his life. The Proposals state that the work would include “Maps of the Countries Treated of” but only one was printed. In the intervening time the plan changed and the title page of the first edition states “to the whole is Prefixed a New and Correct Map of the Countries Treated of”. As the map was not ready at the issue of the first part in 1729 the words “to the whole …” mean that one will be provided for the whole work. As was customary for part issue works the preliminary matter was issued with the last part. In this case it included the title pages, dedication leaf for each volume, a List of Encouragers (subscribers), twelve-page Preface, forty-four-page Account, Index to the ten parts (not the Appendix issued later) and of course the map. The Smithsonian Institute’s example includes a printed slip of paper believed to have been sent to subscribers at the completion of the first volume which states that a map was to be produced at the end of volume two but was intended to be bound in volume one “There being a Frontice-Piece, Preface, and Maps of the Country’s, to be added at the conclusion of the Work. It is desired, not to bind up any of the Sets, ’till the whole are finished.” The printed map therefore was most probably not printed and published until 1743, not 1734 as recorded by Cumming. At the earliest one could place a date of 1742 to the map as one contemporary source is a letter from Thomas Knowlton to Samuel Brewer dated 15 December 1741 in which he states “Mr. Catesby … will very soon publish his Last part to compleat the 2 Vollm. Wherein youl have a map of Caralina with a Long Disertation one [on] Birds of the East and West Indies …” Clearly the map’s date of issue is of some debate.
The source for Catesby’s map is Henry Popple’s great wall map of 1733 and for the Carolina’s originally the source is Colonel John Barnwell’s manuscript of c.1721-24. On examination I have noted that the engraver of the two works appears to be the same W. H. Toms. Catesby clearly approached him as he had worked on the Popple map. Even the notable omissions are mirrored including the lack of New Orleans. However there is some distinct fresh input in the southeast. Catesby and Popple were both Fellows of the Royal Society and were therefore acquainted. It is highly likely that they shared information about the southeast. As for the engraver it is generally accepted that it was not Catesby. It is interesting to note that among the 154 subscribers to 160 copies of the work was John Senex, the map maker. What Cumming did not record is that there are now recognised to be two “issues” of the map. Technically the plate has not been altered so we cannot call them states. On the first issue the territory on both sides of the Mississippi was coloured green, to indicate that the entire region was in the hands of the French. A second version was included in the third edition of the “Natural History” in 1771, altered to show the political realignment brought about by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The territory on the east bank of the Mississippi, which was now in British hands, was now coloured green; the territory to the West, which now belonged to Spain, was coloured blue. This example is first issue first edition with the earlier colouring. The watermarks are fleur-de-lys within a crowned shield, LVG and IHS I Villedary dating from the mid-1730s. The Dutch paper maker dynasty of Jean Villedary covered a period of 150 years.
The ‘List of Subscribers’ identifies a total of 166 copies of the book for 155 individuals. Further copies were printed as can be attested by the fact that upon Catesby’s death in 1749 there were eleven copies unsold in his estate. Clive A. Burden Ltd. sold to private American collection 1988; Clive A. Burden Ltd. acquired 2009; private English collection. Churchill (1985) 411, pp. 21-2, 67; Cumming & De Vorsey (1998) 210; Dunthorne (1938) 72; Hunt (1958) 486; McBurney (1997) ‘Mark Catesby’s Natural History of America’; Meyers & Pritchard (1999) ‘Empire’s Nature Mark Catesby’s New World Vision’ pp. 15-16, 92, 182; Nissen BBI (1966) 336; Pritchard and Sites (1991) ‘The Map Collector’ 56 p.12; Pritzel 1602; Schwartz & Ehrenberg (1980) pp. 151-2; Sotheby’s, London, De Belder sale 27 April 1987 lot 62; Sotheby’s, New York, H. Bradley Martin Library, 27 April 1989, lot 65.