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The Razor-Billed Blackbird of Jamaica
London: printed for Benjamin White, 1771. Hand-coloured copper engraving, on fine laid paper. Very good condition apart from some light soiling and two small bits of adhesive residue at the edge of the top margin. A fine image from Catesby's "The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands," "the most famous colour-plate book of American plant and animal life...a fundamental and original work for the study of American species" (Hunt). In the text accompanying this illustration, Catesby describes this beautiful bird as being numerous in Jamaica. It feeds on fruit, grain, grasshoppers and beetles and appears mainly in flocks. Of its impressive appearance, he observes that it looks "at a distance all over black, but at a nearer view some of the feathers were blended with shining purple and green. The singular make of the bill resembles that of the Razor-billed Willoughby, the upper mandible being remarkably prominent, rising arch-wise, with an high and very thin edge." The blackbird is pictured here alongside a Lady's-slipper, so called because of its slipper-like shape. A member of the orchid family, this elegant wildflower grows in forested areas and was prized by Native Americans as a decorative hair accessory. Trained as a botanist, Catesby travelled to Virginia in 1712 and remained there for seven years, sending back to England collections of plants and seeds. With the encouragement of Sir Hans Sloane and others, Catesby returned to America in 1722 to seek materials for his "Natural History"; he travelled extensively in Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and the Bahamas, sending back further specimens. His preface provides a lengthy account of the development of this work, including his decision to study with Joseph Goupy in order to learn to etch his plates himself to ensure accuracy and economy. A lovely and important work, embodying the most impressive record made during the colonial period of the natural history of an American colony. The most significant work of American natural history before Audubon's The Birds of America . Cf. Anker 95; cf. Clark I:55; cf. Dunthorne 72; cf. Fine Bird Books (1990), p. 86; cf. Great Flower Books (1990), p.85; cf. Meisel III:340; cf. Nissen BBI 336, IVB 177; cf. Sabin 11509; cf. Stafleu & Cowan TL2 1057; cf. Wood p. 282; cf. Amy Meyers and Margaret Pritchard, Empire's Nature, Mark Catesby's New World Vision , Williamsburg, 1998; cf. Feduccia, Catesby's Birds of Colonial America , pp. 21-23.
      [Bookseller: Donald Heald Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2016-01-31           Check availability:      IOBABooks    

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