Mark Catesby, Pl. 66 The Green Lizard of Jamaica, Vol. 2, The Natural History of Carolina..., 1771, hand-colored engraving
Enjoy special pricing on Plate 66 The Green Lizard of Jamaica, Lacerta viridis, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, third edition, revised by George Edwards, printed for George White, London, 1771. The subtle translucency of the water-color perfectly accents this beautiful engraving.
Catesby depicted a male "Green Lizard of Jamaica" on a branch of logwood, which was prized for a red dye produced from its heartwood. The species name, campechianum, refers to Campeche, a coastal city on the Yucatan Peninsula where the Spanish discovered logwood trees. During the seventeenth century, British privateers routinely pursued and attacked Spanish vessels for this valuable cargo. In the eighteenth century, logwood was introduced to the Caribbean Islands. Logwood was also found in Belize, where In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the English established logging camps to procure this product.
Catesby's text description for this plate follows:
Lacertus Viridis Jamaicensis: The Green Lizard
This Lizard is usually six inches long, of a shining grass green Colour. It is common in Jamaica, frequenting Hedges and Trees, but not seen in Houses that i observed. When they are approache'd to, they by filling their Throat by Wind sell to a globular Form., and a scarlet Colour, which when contracted the red disappears, and returns to the Colour of the rest of the Body. The Swelling Action seems to proceed from menacing, or deterring one from coming near him, though they are inoffensive.
Lignum Campechianum; species quaedam Brasil: Logwood.
In the Year 1725, I saw three of these Trees in the Island of Providence, which were raised from Seeds brought from the Bay of Honduras, by Mr. Spatches, a Person of more than common Curiosity. He told me they were of three Years Growth, from the Seed, they were then about fourteen Feet high; their Truncs strait, and about seven or eight Inches thick; their Heads branching regularly, and being in full Blossom, made a beautiful Appearance. The Leaves are pinnated, consisting of four, and some five Pair of Lobes, set opposite to each other, and are in Shape of an Heart: From the Tops of the Branches shoot forth many Spikes of small pentapetalous yellow Flowers, every one of which before it opens, is covered with a purple Calyx. The Flowers are succeeded by final! flat Pods, about two inches long, which when ripe split open in the middle, and disclose five or six small flat Seeds.
The bloody Disputes which this useful Tree has occasioned between the Spaniards and English are too well known to say much of here, only I could wish that the Inhabitants of our Southern Plantations could be induced to propagate it, as well for their own Advantage, as that we may be supplied by them, when wholly deprived of getting it from the Spaniards, as we have hitherto done either by Force or Stealth.
If upon a Rock these Trees will in four Years bear Seeds, and grow to the Thickness of eight Inches, a much quicker Progress may be expected when planted in a deep moist Soil, which Jamaica and many other of our Islands abound in.
Catesby added significantly to eighteenth-century natural history, introducing many of the plants he found in colonial America to Europe, and contributing more than 20 new plant species as well as over 70 bird illustrations to Carl Linnaeus' landmark work, Systema Naturae.
This rare hand-colored engraving is in perfect condition with pristine original color; 14.25 x 20.675 inches.
$850 this week only (list price $1,400). Offer expires 4-10-17.
A naturalist-explorer and self-taught artist who executed almost every aspect of this historic work, Mark Catesby (1683–1749) possessed a unique combination of talents. To publish his work, he learned the complicated process of etching from the print maker Joseph Goupy. From 1731 to 1747, The Natural History was published in two volumes of five parts comprising a total of 200 plates. The Appendix, which was compiled from specimens available in England, added 20 more. The artist George Edwards revised and re-issued both volumes from 1748 to 1756, and in 1771 the publisher Benjamin White reissued the Edwards version adding Linnaean names to all Catesby’s plants and animals. All editions have the same number of plates.
Mark Catesby traveled from England to the new world on a legendary discovery expedition a century before Audubon first published his work. Born in Castle Hedingham, Essex, England, to John Catesby, a lawyer, and Elizabeth Jekyll, the daughter of a prominent family, Catesby’s interest in the natural world began in childhood, when as a boy he was introduced to the renowned naturalist John Ray, who lived nearby and became an early influence. Catesby explains the forces that motivated him in the preface to volume I:
“The early Inclination I had to search after Plants, and other Productions in Nature, being much suppressed by my residing too remote from London the Center of all Science, I was deprived of all Opportunities and Examples to excite me to a stronger Pursuit after those Things to which I was naturally bent: yet my Curiosity was such, that not being content with contemplating the Products of our own Country, I soon imbibed a passionate Desire of viewing as well the Animal as Vegetable Productions in their Native Countries; which were Strangers to England. Virginia was the Place (I having Relations there) suited most with my Convenience to go to, where I arriv’d the 23d. of April 1712. 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, amongst whom was Mr. Dale of Braintree in Essex, a skilful Apothecary and Botanist: to him, besides Specimens of Plants, I sent some few Observations on the Country, which he communicated to the late William Sherard, L. L. D. one of the most celebrated Botanists of this Age, who favoured me with his Friendship on my Return to England till the Year 1719; and by his Advice, (tho conscious of my own Inability) I first resolved on this Undertaking, so agreeable to my Inclination.
Catesby gained extensive knowledge of the new world on his first visit to the colony of Virginia from 1712–19. His return visit in 1722 was sponsored by William Sherard, Hans Sloane and others in the Royal Society. Landing in Charles Town (Charleston, South Carolina), for five years Catesby explored the wilderness, taking notes, collecting specimens, and making drawings that documented quadrupeds, insects, amphibians and reptiles, fish, birds, and plants. Whenever possible, he drew his subjects from life. Again, the preface to his monumental work provides insights into his painting of natural history subjects.
“As I was not bred a Painter I hope some faults in Perspective, and other Niceties, may be more readily excused, for I humbly conceive Plants, and other Things done in a Flat, tho’ exact manner, may serve the Purpose of Natural History, better in some measure than in a more bald and Painter like Way. In designing the Plants, I always did them while fresh and just gather’d: And the Animals, particularly the Birds, I painted them while alive (except a very few) and gave them their Gestures peculiar to every kind of Bird, and where it would admit of, I have adapted the Birds to those Plants on which they fed, or have any Relation to. Fish which do not retain their Colours when out of their Element, I painted at different times, having a succession of them procur’d while the former lost their Colours: I dont pretend to have had this advantage in all, for some kinds I saw not plenty of, and of others I never saw above one or two: Reptiles will live many Months without Sustenance, so that I had no difficulty in Painting them while living.”
References: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Beehive Press, 1974; The Curious Mister Catesby, edited for the Catesby Commemorative Trust by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliott, Forward by Jane O, Waring, University of Georgia Press, 2015
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