Mark Catesby, Pl. 69 The Land Frog, Vol. 2, The Natural History of Carolina..., 1754, hand-colored engraving
Acquire a superb hand-colored engraving by Mark Catesby, Pl. 69 The Land Frog, Rana terrestris, from The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Island, available this week only at a special price. In 1754, five years after Catesby's death, a second edition of his Natural History was revised and printed in London by the ornithologist and natural history painter George Edwards (1694–1773). Printed from Catesby's original copper plates, the 1754 edition is generally more colorful than the first edition.
The symmetry of this composition is particularly engaging in a way that speaks to Catesby's innate sense of design within the context of creating a visually accurate record of his subject. Here he depicted two species of pitcherplants together with a frog he calls the Land Frog. The frog is framed by two nearly parallel, yet distinct species of pitcherplants. His juxtaposition of the linearly ribbed leaves and stems of the pitcherplants with his handling of the curved forms of the flower parts and frog, sets up a wonderful rhythm. In this counterpoint, the elegant linear and curved forms painted in a limited color palette produce a cohesively graphic and harmonious composition.
The current names for the species Catesby depicted in this plate are: southern toad, Anaxyrus terrestris, yellow pitcherplant, yellow trumpet, Saracenia flava (left), and nodding pitcherplant, hooded pitcherplant, Saracenia minor (center and right).
Below is Catesby's text entry for this plate.
Rana terrestris: The Land Frog.
The Back and Upper-part of this Frog is gray, and thick spotted with dark brown Spots; the Belly dusky white, and faintly spotted: The Irides of the Eyes. They vary somewhat in Colour, some being more gray, others inclining to brown: Their Bodies are large, resembling more a Toad than a Frog, yet they do not crawl as Toads do, but leap; they are seen most in wet Weather, yet are very frequent in the higher Lands, and appear in the hottest time of the Day: They feed on Insects, particularly of one Kind, which the following Accident seems to confirm. As I was sitting in a sultry Evening, with some Company without Doors, one of us let fall from a Pipe of Tobacco some light burning Ashes, which was immediately catched up and swallowed by a Frog of this Kind. This put us upon tempting him with a red hot Wood Coal, not less than the End of ones Finger, which he also swallowed greedily; thus afterwards always found one or other of them cagily deceived in this Manner, as I imagine, by taking it to be a Cicindela, or FireFly, which in hot Nights are very numerous in Virginia and Carolina, where also these Frogs abound.
Sarracena, foliis longioribus & angustioribus; Bucanephyllon elatius Virginianum.
As this and the following Plate exhibit two Plants of the same Genus, and which in many Parts of their Structure agree with the Description of each other, I found it necessary to refer from one to the other in order to explain some Parts, which are not alike displayed in both Plates, and consequently cannot give so perfect Idea without such reference.
The Leaves of this Plant are tubelous, and ribbed, arising from a knotty fiberous Root, to the Height of about three Feet; they are small at the Root, widening gradually to the Mouth of the Tube, which in young Leaves are closed, but open by Degrees, as the Leaf increaseth, and when near its full Growth arches over the Mouth of the Tube, in Form of a Fryar's Cowl, Fig. 1. This Cowl expands itself till the Leaf is at full Bigness, having its Inside of a greenish Yellow, veined with Purple, Fig. 2. yet retaining somwhat the Position it first had, by hanging over the Mouth of the Tube, which otherwise would be filled with Rain, and fall by the Weight of Water, it being of a thin Substance, and of a yellowish green Colour; The Flowers, which hang inclining, grow each on a single Foot-stalk, of between two and three Feet high, springing from the Root, in like Manner with the Leaves. While the Flower is in bloom, many small yellow Apices, hanging by Threads, surround the Ovarium, to which is fixed by a Stylus, a pentagonal thin Membrane, in Form of a Shield, hanging horizontally; between the Intercesses of which hang five thin Petals, growing from the Basis of the Ovarium: On the Top is placed the Calyx divided into five Sections, and compleats the whole Flower, which remains not long in this perfect State, for the five Petals, after continuing a Day or two, fall off, leaving the Remains of the Flower, which continue several Months in the State and Form represented in the next Plate, Fig. 3. The Capsula or Seed Vessel incloses a Core, from which it separates when the Seeds are ripe, and divides into five Parts, each of which is again divided by a thin Membrane, by which ten Cells are formed, in which the Seeds lie: Fig. 4. shews the under Part of the Flower, as it appears when spread open, with the Shield reflected, resembling somewhat the Seat of a Side Saddle, from which in Virginia it has received its Name of Side-Saddle Flower. These Plants grow in Bogs and watery Places in Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Pensylvania.
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; 20.25 x 14.25 inches.
$2,525 this week only (list price $3,200). Offer expires 9-11-17.
References: The Curious Mr. Catesby, Edited by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliott, pgs. 339
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 in 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 of Catesby’s plants and animals. All editions have the same number of plates.
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. Mark Catesby traveled from England to the new world on a legendary discovery expedition a century before Audubon first published his work. In the preface in Volume I, he explains the forces that motivated him:
“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
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.