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Haematopus: The Oyster Catcher.

In 1747 Mark catesby published the final installment of _The Natural History of Florida, Carolina and the Bahama Islands_. Its production, from inception to publication, took close to thirty years. All two-hundred and twenty images were first drawn, then engraved by Catesby's own hand. But without the substantial aid (financial and otherwise) of several others, it could not have been published. This section will trace _Natural History's_ own history. It is an interesting tale of the connections between politics, commerce and science tangled around one man's insatiatable curiousity to record a natural world that was already being shaped by those same forces. INCEPTION From early childhood the well-born Catesby was exposed to many of England's "new intelligentsia" who were ushering in the Age of Reason (First in the Field, 14). His uncle, a minor local historian by the name of Nicholas Jekyll, introduced him to the prominent naturalist John Ray. Ray nurtured the young Casteby's interest in botany and introduced him to others who shared it, notably Samuel Dale, an amateur botanist who would help finance Catesby's later American collecting expiditions (First in the Field, 13). Catesby's first opportunity to travel to America came through a family connection. His sister, Elizabeth, had married Dr. William Cocke and the two lived in Williamsburg, Virginia. Cocke had become involved in Colonial politics and provided Catesby with introductions to the many of the ruling class in Virginia, including William Byrd, who would also provide support for Catesby's second trip to the Colonies(Mark Catesby's _Natural History of America. Catesby arrived in Virginia on April 23, 1712. It was seven years before he would return to England. Except for a visist to Jamaica in 1714, he spent his time in Virginia, travelling through the Tidewater and up the James River towards the Appalachians. He observed and sketched local flora and fauna. He also collected botanical specimens for Samuel Dale and for Thomas Fairchild, whose nursey at Hoxton Catesby often mentions in _Natural History_. In his preface to the first volume of The Natural History, Catesby regretted that he had not approached his study with more structure: I thought then so little of prosecuting a Design of the Nature of this Work, that in the Seven Years I resided in that Country, (I am ashamed to own it) I chiefly gratified my Inclination in observing and admiring the various Productions of those Countries, ---- only sending from thence some dried Specimens of Plants and some of the most Specious of them in Tubs of Earth, at the Request of some curious Friends (Vol I, Preface, p. V.) Yet his time in Virginia proved to have been well spent, for his observations, sketches and specimens collected during that time, with the help of a few well-placed friends, secured him funding for a second trip. Samuel Dale provided him with an introduction to England's premiere botanist, William Sherard, writing to him: Mr. Catesby is come from Virginia...He intends againe to return , and will take an oppertuniity to waite upon you with some paintings of Birds &c. which he hath drawn. Its [a] pitty some incouragement can't be found for him, he may be very usefull for the perfecting of Natural History (Dale to Sherard,February 24, 1718 (Royal Society: Sherard Letters,196 qtd. in _Mark catesby's Natural History in America_, 13-14) Happily for Catesby, Sherard had just begun plans to send a naturalist to America. In October of 1620 Colonel Francis Nicholson, about to depart for America as the first Royal Governor of South Carolina, told the Royal Society that throughout his reign he would provide Catesby with a pension of twenty pounds per year "to Observe the Rarities of the Country for the uses and purposes of the Society" (Frick and Stearns 1961, 18 qtd. in Mark catesby's Natural History in America_, 14). The Royal Society itself did not fund Catesby, but their endorsement of him helped him to secure other funding. Catesby soon recieved the support of Sir Hans Sloane, then President of of the Royal College of Physicians and later President of the Royal Society. (In the Presence of Nature, 128). Catesby's backer were not only men of science and politics, but also business men, who clearly stood to gain from the as yet unknown natural resources of America. Among such men was Charled Dubois, merchant and former treasurer of the East India Company. (Mark Catesby's Natural History, 14). Catesby included a list of sponsors on page vi of the preface to Volume I. (Foot note -- David Brigham treats the topic of Catesby's sponsors in great detail in his article "Mark Catesby and the Patronage of Natural History in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century" in _Empire's Nature_. Without such support, catesby could not have made this second trip to America, yet this support came at a price.

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