The Curious Mister Catesby
A "Truly Ingenious" Naturalist Explores New Worlds

Edited for the Catesby Commemorative Trust by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliott
Foreword by Jane O. Waring

The most comprehensive study to date of Mark Catesby, his work, and his continuing impact—includes significant new information discovered by the authors


The Curious Mister Catesby is an absorbing blend of early colonial history in the American Southeast and the Bahamas, with the rich fauna and flora the settlers freshly contained. Catesby emerges as one of the first true naturalists of the New World.”
—E. O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus of Entomology, Harvard University

“Mark Catesby, the English naturalist and artist, as well as his considerable accomplishments, is given new life in this well-written, multiauthored account. Emphasis is placed on Catesby’s travels in North America that led to his monumental volumes on the flora and fauna of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas. The book is an important addition to the library of the history of the natural history of colonial America.”
—William D. Anderson Jr., professor of marine biology, Grice Marine Biological Laboratory, College of Charleston

More / Hide


In 1712, English naturalist Mark Catesby (1683–1749) crossed the Atlantic to Virginia. After a seven-year stay, he returned to England with paintings of plants and animals he had studied. They sufficiently impressed other naturalists that in 1722 several Fellows of the Royal Society sponsored his return to North America. There Catesby cataloged the flora and fauna of the Carolinas and the Bahamas by gathering seeds and specimens, compiling notes, and making watercolor sketches. Going home to England after five years, he began the twenty-year task of writing, etching, and publishing his monumental The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands.

Mark Catesby was a man of exceptional courage and determination combined with insatiable curiosity and multiple talents. Nevertheless no portrait of him is known. The international contributors to this volume review Catesby’s biography alongside the historical and scientific significance of his work. Ultimately, this lavishly illustrated volume advances knowledge of Catesby’s explorations, collections, artwork, and publications in order to reassess his importance within the pantheon of early naturalists.

A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book

Page count: 456
238 paintings, illus., photos, and maps
Trim size: 8 x 11


List price: $49.95

buy button
View Shopping Cart

E. Charles Nelson is a botanist who served for two decades as a Horticultural Taxonomist at the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. He served as Honorary Editor of Archives of Natural History (1999–2012) and has written or edited, singly or collaboratively, nearly forty books. His most recent title is Shadow among Splendours: Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe’s Adventures among the Flowers of Burma, 1897–1921.

David J. Elliott is founder, chairman, and now Honorary Trustee of the Kiawah Island Natural Habitat Conservancy. He has been executive director of the Catesby Commemorative Trust since 2002.