In recognition of the 300th anniversary of Mark Catesby’s first visit to the Americas, Cincinnati Museum Center is proud to present The Curious Mister Catesby, an exhibit of Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1729-1747). The exhibit is presented in collaboration with the Lloyd Library and Museum, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, the Catesby Commemorative Trust and the University of Georgia Press.
Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, a two-volume folio, was the first fully illustrated natural history of North America and served as the inspiration for many early naturalists, including John James Audubon (The Birds of America, 1827-1838). Meriwether Lewis studied Catesby prior to his embarkation on the Corps of Discovery expedition with William Clark (1804-1806).
Catesby’s work is renowned for its innovative techniques and attention to detail. He was the first to paint birds and other animals in life position with naturally coexisting plants. He was the first to study the habitats, flora and fauna of Britain’s southeastern colonies in the New World, and the first to recognize that habitat destruction could negatively impact a species’ survival. Catesby was also the first to observe that bird populations migrate with the seasons.
In honor of the publication of a new scholarly study of Catesby, The Curious Mister Catesby, this exhibit showcases Catesby’s Natural History, his posthumously published Hortus Britanno-Americanus (1763), illustrations in the Catesby tradition by local artists John James Audubon and John Ruthven, and a selection of zoological specimens from the collections of Cincinnati Museum Center representing some of the many species studied by Catesby.