The Pigeon of Passage
The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, 1754
Unlike Benjamin Button, he’s not up for an Oscar, but he’s also a film star – several hundred years late. Mark Catesby (1683-1749), a forerunner of Audubon, was the first European scientist/artist to document the flora and fauna of North America. He depicted live specimens in their natural habitats, and made special study of both migration and extinction. You can view Catesby’s masterwork, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, Vol 1 and Vol 2, at the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.
Although he’s virtually forgotten by mainstream biologists today, this documentary film by Cynthia Neal and David Elliot makes a stab at resurrecting Catesby’s name. It looks like a beautiful blend of illustration and cinematography:
You can find a list of PBS stations currently showing Catesby here. And if you’ll be in the Cincinnati area, you can attend a special screening of the documentary on Saturday, February 28. Unfortunately I missed out when it played in DC last summer, but I hope I’ll be able to catch it on PBS eventually.
More info can be found at the Catesby Commemorative Trust.