Credit: © The Royal Society
    Image number: RS.10464
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    The blue jay

    Mark Catesby (1683 - 1749, British) , Naturalist
    Object type
    Library reference
    height (print): 255mm
    width (print): 350mm
       > Zoology
          > Ornithology
       > Natural history
       > Botany
    Content object
       > animal
          > bird
       > plant
    Pica glandaria caerulea cristata’, the blew jay / crested jay, perched on a branch of the ‘Smilax laevis lauri folio baccis nigris’, the bay-leaved smilax (Catesby’s identifications; modern scientific names: Cyanocitta cristata, the blue jay; Smilax laurifolia, the laurel greenbriar).

    Plate 15 from volume I of The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, by Mark Catesby (London, 1731). This was the first natural history book to use folio-sized colour plates. Catesby etched the copper plates himself before hand-colouring each individual print with watercolours.

    Mark Catesby (1683-1749), British naturalist was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1733. Travelling under the auspices of the Royal Society, Catesby recorded the earliest western scientific descriptions of the flora and fauna of the British colonies in North America. His research is known to have relied on the knowledge and labour of enslaved African peoples and indigenous peoples.
    Object history
    The Natural History was originally published in 10 parts, intended to be bound in 2 volumes. It was the earliest western scientific description of the flora and fauna of North America, and its copper plates were etched and hand-coloured by Catesby himself.

    Catesby’s trips to North America were funded by a group of sponsors, many of were colonial governors, charged with managing the British Empire’s territories, and their support of Catesby’s research can be read as an exercise in colonial control. As The Natural History’s parts were issued it also became important as a reference text to naturalists attempting to order the natural world according to the ambitious taxonomic systems that characterized the mid-18th century.
    Associated place
    <The World>
       > North America
          > United States
    <The World>
       > North America
          > Bahamas
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