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Henrietta McBurney and The Great Catesby: Illuminating Natural History

April 4, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Illuminating Natural History is not only the name of renowned art historian and curator Henrietta McBurney’s latest book; it’s also one of her driving missions. Fortunately, for a night, she’ll take us all along for the ride. Come explore the life and art of the 18th-century naturalist Mark Catesby, and his pioneering work depicting the flora and fauna of North America, in vibrant detail with us on Tuesday, April 4, at 6pm.

Tickets are $10 for Members, $15 for Guests.
To purchase tickets, please click here.

About the Book

Illuminating Natural History explores the life and work of the celebrated eighteenth-century English naturalist, explorer, artist, and author Mark Catesby (1683–1749). During Catesby’s lifetime, science was poised to shift from a world of amateur virtuosi to one of professional experts. Working against a backdrop of global travel that incorporated collecting and direct observation of nature, Catesby spent two prolonged periods in the New World – in Virginia (1712–19) and South Carolina and the Bahamas (1722–6). In his majestic two-volume  Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731–43), esteemed by his contemporary John Bartram as ‘an ornament for the finest library in the world,’ he reflected the excitement, drama and beauty of the natural world. Interweaving elements of art history, history of science, natural history illustration, painting materials, book history, paper studies, garden history and colonial history, this meticulously researched volume brings together a wealth of unpublished images as well as newly discovered letters by Catesby, which, with their first-hand accounts of his collecting and encounters in the wild, bring the story of this extraordinary pioneer naturalist vividly to life.

About the Author

Henrietta McBurney, MVO, FLS, FSA, is an art historian and curator. She worked as Curator of Prints and Drawings in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle between 1983 and 2002, and subsequently as Keeper of Fine and Decorative Art at Eton College. Based in Cambridge, UK, she now works freelance for Cambridge colleges, lectures, and co-teaches courses for the Oak Spring Library Foundation, VA, and for the London Rare Books School, University of London. 

Henrietta has been interested in the life and art of naturalist artist Mark Catesby (1683-1749) since she looked after his drawings in the Royal Library at Windsor. Her most recent book, Illuminating Natural History. The Art and Science of Mark Catesby (Paul Mellon Centre/Yale University, 2021), won the ‘Award for Excellence in Biography’ from the Council for Botanical and Horticultural Literature in 2022 , and the Historians of British Art, 1600-1800’s book prize this year. It has also been short listed for the Natural History Book Prize (John Thackray medal) of the Society for the History of Natural History. 


Charleston Library Society
164 King Street
Charleston, SC 29401 United States
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