In Mark Catesby's Legacy: Natural History Then and Now, Alan Brush, Emeritus Professor of Physiology & Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut, provides an important historical perspective on the scientific discoveries made by the Englishman Mark Catesby 1683-1749, who traveled in the Carolinas, Florida and the Bahamas three centuries ago. Professor Brush's observations are complemented by the delicate, contemporary paintings (inspired by Catesby's own beautiful drawings of fauna and flora) by his wife, M. J. Brush, a professional illustrator.
Mark Catesby's Legacy answers a question every Mark Catesby enthusiast must at some point ask: What has become of the natural world Catesby so uniquely chronicled in the early 18th century? This is a question the Brushes are qualified to address. Like Catesby, they have traveled throughout the Carolinas, Florida and Bahamas – primarily by sailboat – and described and painted many of the plants and animals featured in Catesby's magisterial two-volume folio The Natural History of the Carolinas, Florida and the Bahamas first published in London in 1731. It was so popular that it went through several editions in 1754 and 1771 and remaining in print at least until 1815. It influenced the works of Edwards, Linnaeus, Gould, Audubon and even Charles Darwin. It was used by President Jefferson and also by Lewis and Clark in planning their exploration to the West Coast.
While many of the species Catesby illustrated and described are still here in abundance, others face serious challenges to their survival, or are now extinct: sadly, for example, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Carolina Parakeet and the Passenger Pigeon are no longer with us.. Mark Catesby's Legacy: Natural History Then and Now, Natural History Then and Now provides a fresh look at the rich diversity of life in a complex and enchanting part of the world in the early 21 st century and a must read for all naturalists and admirers of the work of Mark Catesby worldwide.
"Mark Catesby's Legacy: Natural History Then and Now answers a question every Mark Catesby enthusiast must at some point ask: What has become of the natural world Catesby so beautifully chronicled in the early 18th century? This is a question the Brushes are uniquely qualified to address. Like Catesby, they have travelled through the Carolinas, Florida and Bahamas – primarily by sailboat – and described and painted many of the plants and animals featured in Catesby's magisterial work. M.J.'s paintings are bright and evocative; and some, like the Bachman's warbler, are sad. Alan's authoritative prose offers fascinating background on particular species Catesby illustrated (and considerably more expansively than Catesby himself did), in addition to examining the ecological status of the animals, plants and their habitats. Alan notes, for example, that the vast longleaf pine forests that once dominated the Southeast have been reduced to just three percent of their original range. This book will be a resource and a joy to anyone who is interested in the natural history of this region and the art of one of America's first and greatest naturalists."
– Dana Beach – Executive Director, Coastal Conservation League
"A fascinating reflection on how North America has changed in the nearly three centuries since Mark Catesby published the first account of North American flora and fauna. Visiting places Catesby studied, Alan Brush tells in words what we have learned and lost, and M.J. Brush evokes those changes in watercolors that echo Catesby's paintings from the era of passenger pigeons and ivory-billed woodpeckers."
– Jeff Hecht – Science Writer
"In Mark Catesby's Legacy, Natural History Then and Now Alan Brush's historical and scientific perspectives on the travels and discoveries of Mark Catesby in southeastern North America almost three centuries ago complement the beautiful, contemporary paintings made by his wife, M.J. Brush. The book provides a fresh look at the rich diversity of life that continues to flourish in a complex and enchanting part of the world."
– Robert McCracken Peck – Curator of Art and Senior Fellow, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University