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Mark Catesby.

The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands...

1731 [-1743]

"Magnolia Altissima."

Miami-Dade Public Library. Florida Collection, Main Library. Miami, Florida.

Miami-Dade Public Library operates thirty-one libraries throughout Dade County. The main library, in downtown Miami, houses the Florida Collection of manuscripts, books, publications and research materials relating to the history of Florida as well as the Romer Photograph Collection. The Florida Collection also offers extensive runs of area newspapers and journals.

The frontispiece from An Authentic Narrative of the Seminole War...
Printed for D.F. Blanchard and other, Publishers, 1836.
An Authentic Narrative of the Seminole War; and of the Miraculous Escape of Mrs. Mary Godfrey, and her Four Female Children. Annexed is a Minute Detail of the Horrid Massacres of the Whites, by the Indians and Negroes in Florida in the months of December, January, and February.
New York: Printed for D. F. Blanchard and other, Publishers, 1836.

This rare imprint was first published with the title An Authentic Narrative of the Seminole War, its Cause, Rise and Progress... Providence, 1836. This pamphlet, issued at the beginning of the Second Seminole Indian War, begins with a brief history of the Seminoles and offers an emotional and inflammatory description of the state of hostilities between "the defenseless inhabitants (male and female) of the Floridas" and the Indians. The stated intent of the pamphlet is "... to collect every fact of an important and interesting nature relative to the cause and progress of the alarming and bloody conflict." The publication is, in essence, a propaganda piece designed to rally northern support to the war.

Mrs. Mary Godfrey, the mother of four children, recounts her terrible ordeal. Burdened with a six-month infant, Godfrey and her children took refuge in a "thick and wiry swamp." There she hid her family for four days surrounded by Indians and without food or water. On the fourth day a "Negro", a "humane African", discovered Godfrey and the children. Though an ally of the Indians and at the risk of his own life, he obtained blankets and food for the family and ultimately led them to safety.

Purvis Young. Playing Ball. [n.p., n.d.] Drawings done with colored marker and crayon.

This artist's book presents a series of striking images from the hand of Purvis Young, a Miami book artist. The images in Playing Ball are, like all of Young's work, a product of his life in the streets of urban Miami. The youths playing basketball may be nameless, faceless images on the page, but they represent legions of young men whose lives are an integral part of the urban landscape. The energy and movement captured on these pages is perhaps best appreciated when the pages are quickly fanned. Over 375 drawings of basketball players are drawn on scrap paper from various sources and pasted onto pages of a book. Some of the drawings are dated from the 1970s and are signed. Many are done in colored marker and crayon.

Purvis Young was born in the Liberty City section of Miami in 1943. He became an artist, born of the street, with no formal training. His first major work was entirely self-initiated and began in 1973. Over a period of two years he attached hundreds of painted panels to the wall of a dilapidated building in Overtown, a few blocks north of downtown Miami. This work, Goodbread Alley, contained brightly colored scenes that offered, from a distance, a flickering quality. Viewed up-close, the color stains became faces, figures, and landscapes. The audience included thousands of daily commuters in automobiles, and media attention soon followed. In 1973 Young also met Bernard Davis, founder of the Museum of Modern Art in Miami. Young soon had a show there and his introduction to galleries, collectors, and other artists followed.

Young gathers his materials and subjects from the streets of Miami. From construction areas he collects plywood, nails, glass, and wood. As Young's portfolio of drawings increased, he began storing them in between the pages of books. As a practical measure, the books protected the drawings and kept them flat. The books, however, took on a new shape. Young liked his fat books and soon glued his work to the pages, creating a truer representation of his free-flowing imagination. Young's work came full cycle, from walls to books and back to walls as he was commissioned to paint several murals in public libraries, Metrorail stations, and other locations in South Florida. Young found much of his information and inspiration in libraries. A regular patron of Miami's public libraries, Young could often be found sketching images from art books and magazines.

For Purvis Young, the street is life. More accurately, "The street is real life...you come out here and feel the workings of the world...that's all you need to be an artist."

Mark Catesby. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds, Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects, and Plants: Particularly the Forest- Trees, Shrubs, and other Plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by Authors. Together with their Descriptions in English and French. To which are added, Observations on the Air, Soil, and Waters: With Remarks upon Agriculture, Grain, Pulse, Roots, &c. To the whole is prefixed a new and correct Map of the Countries Treated of. By Mark Catesby, F.R.S. ... London: Printed at the expense of the Author; and sold by W. Innys and R. Manby, at the West End of St. Paul's, by Mr. Hauksbee, at the Royal Society House, and by the Author at Mr. Bacon's in HOxton [sic]... 1731 [-1743.]

Mark Catesby was perhaps the most significant collector of natural history specimens dispatched from England to North America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In addition, he wrote the most important work of natural history on North America published before the American Revolution, The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahamas Islands... Only a brief visitor to North America, from 1722 - 1726, Catesby returned to England to write and illustrate his work.

Catesby exhibited the first products of his labor, twenty plates and their descriptive texts, to the Royal Society in 1729. The book was published in sections, each containing twenty plates, due to the time-consuming process required to produce the finished work and to offset the high cost of creating such prized volumes. Catesby etched the figures from his own paintings, and had copies colored under his inspection. The text is in English and French.

Regardless of Catesby's ultimate place in the pantheon of scientific ornithology and botany, he created useful if not distinctive illustrations. Experts generally accord Catesby higher marks for his bird illustrations that for his work with plants. However, the magnolia illustrations contained within The Natural History of Carolina... are certainly worthy of discussion. The noted German illustrator, Georg Dionysius Ehret, supplied the only two plates for the volume that are not the work of Catesby. Ehret's magnolia, a contrast of white, green and red against a black background, is considered superior to Catesby's efforts. The presence of delicate lines and such accuracies as the veins in plant leaves offer truer images than Catesby's more stylized representations. It is likely that Catesby modeled his later work on Ehret's more life- like styling. In Catesby's defense, he chose to depict a single plant at multiple stages of development. This deliberate misrepresentation allowed an individual to see a specimen at different points in its life cycle. Contemporaries may have produced more scientific works, with better, although usually far fewer illustrations, but Mark Catesby's legacy with The Natural History of Carolina... is a work of uncommon devotion and beauty.