Botany, Ornithology & Natural<br>History From Donald Heald
By Michael Stillman
This month we take a look at the second part of Donald A. Heald’s online spring 2004 catalogue: “A Selection of Antiquarian Books.” Last month we looked at Part I, which focused on Americana, voyages, and color-plate books. Part II is focused on Botany, Ornithology, and Natural History.
Some of the most important pre-Revolution works of American natural history came from Mark Catesby. Item 166 is his Hortus Europae Americanus: or a Collection of 85 Curious Trees and Shrubs, The Produce of North America… If we continued with the rest of this lengthy title, you would find he discusses their adaptation to European climates. It includes 17 hand-colored plates showing 64 images of plants. The text describes the plants, where they are found, how they are used by both natives and settlers, and advice on propagating them. This is a first edition, second issue, printed in 1767. Priced at $68,500.
Item 167 is another Catesby work, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands… This is a second edition of this very rare book, printed between 1748-1756. Heald says “This is undoubtedly the most significant work of American natural history before Audubon's ‘Birds of America.’” It has also been described as the “most famous colorplate book of American plant and animal life.” Having earlier spent seven years in Virginia, Catesby returned to America from England in 1722 and began his journeys through Carolina, Georgia, Florida and the Bahamas, collecting specimens. Catesby did not live to see the printing of the second edition, dying in 1749, but the project was completed by his friend George Edwards. $275,000.
Item 160 is Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany… Printed in three volumes between 1817-1820, it is the first book printed in America to use color printing. Bigelow was a botanist and professor at the Harvard Medical School when he undertook this work. In writing European friends he apologized for the quality of the images, feeling they were not up to European standards, and yet few would see anything to apologize for in this book today. $7,500.