Mark Catesby's New World

The artist sketched American wildlife for Europe's high society, educating them on the creatures living among the unexplored lands

Mark Catesby's Blue Jay. (Smithsonian Institute Libraries)

(Continued from page 1)

Adding an element of poignancy to Catesby's story is the fact that several of the species he depicted (the parrot of Carolina, the largest white-billed woodpecker and the greater prairie chicken) are now extinct and others (the hooping crane, flying squirrel and wood pelican) are endangered.

"We must look closely at how well 18th-century Colonial naturalists in the trans-Atlantic world understood that the project of empire was setting into motion new patterns of organic interaction, since it involved not only the movement of people, but other living organisms from across the globe," says Catesby scholar Meyers. "Catesby understood that radically new organic relationships were being established that would remake this New World in highly significant ways."

Surely there's a lesson to be learned in his passion.


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus