Empire's Nature

Mark Catesby's New World Vision
Edited by Amy R. W. Meyers and Margaret Beck Pritchard
Paperback price: $55
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Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Imprint: OIEAHC
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 03/1999
Pages: 296
Paperback ISBN: 9780807847626
Paperback Publication Date: 03/1999


Completed in 1747, Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was the first major illustrated publication on the flora and fauna of Britain’s American colonies. Together with his Hortus Britanno-Americanus (1763), which detailed plant species that might be transplanted successfully to British soil, Catesby’s Natural History exerted an important, though often overlooked, influence on the development of art, natural history, and scientific observation in the eighteenth century.
Inspired by a major traveling exhibition of Catesby’s watercolor drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, this collection of interdisciplinary essays considers Catesby’s endeavors as a naturalist-artist, scientific explorer, experimental horticulturist, ornamental gardener, and early environmental thinker in terms of the interests held by the various, overlapping communities in which he functioned–particularly as those interests related to the British colonial enterprise.
The contributors are David R. Brigham, Joyce E. Chaplin, Mark Laird, Amy R. W. Meyers, Therese O’Malley, and Margaret Beck Pritchard.

About The Author

Amy R. W. Meyers is curator of American art at The Henry E. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.

Margaret Beck Pritchard is curator of prints, maps, and wallpaper at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia.


Empire’s Nature simultaneously provides a compendium of primary data, a rich sampling of current methodological approaches, and provocative ideas that push the envelope of historical interpretation. . . . This book will find an important place in any library.”–William and Mary Quarterly

“A useful addition to libraries of readers with a particular interest in the history of colonial or eighteenth-century British science or art.”–Journal of Southern History

“A handsomely illustrated collection of essays . . . [that] admirably reassesses Catesby’s importance to the recording of natural history.”–Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

“A thoughtful and sometimes provocative reexamination of Mark Catesby’s roles in British natural history during the early eighteenth century. In contrast to most previous work on Catesby, which has focused primarily on his activities as an illustrator of plants and animals, the Meyers volume explores Catesby’s life and work in the much broader perspective of the social, political, economic, cultural, and scientific milieu of his time.”–North Carolina Historical Review

Empire’s Nature is a wonderful book, a meticulous tracing of Catesby’s sumptuous welding of botany and zoology into eighteenth-century natural history and into timeless visual art.”–John R. Stilgoe, Harvard University

“This important new collection situates artist/naturalist Mark Catesby’s works and professional activities within the context of the cultural, sociopolitical, and economic exchanges that marked Britain’s relationship with its New World colonies in the early eighteenth century . . . a richly rewarding volume for readers interested in the history of science, art, and political culture of the circum-Atlantic world.”–K. Dian Kriz, Brown University

Empire’s Nature combines a plethora of natural history information with insights into the significance of Mark Catesby as artist and naturalist. . . . Empire’s Nature informs us of the specifics of Catesby’s achievement to illuminate the larger eighteenth-century scientific and imperial cultural context.”–Jules David Prown, Yale University

“This compelling and scholarly array of essays establishes Catesby and his career as necessary to full understanding of colonial interactions and natural history in the eighteenth century. The illustrations from Catesby’s work are magnificent, and the collection is imaginatively edited.”–Gillian Beer, Clare Hall, Cambridge University

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