The 18th Century Search for the Blue Nile

Catesby's Journey Compared to Bruce's Journey

Both James Bruce and Mark Catesby were influencial explorers and story tellers of the 18th century, but their journey vastly differed in both the reason of their departure and the reaction from the general public. While both Bruce and Catesby orginally started there journey through their own funding, Catesby eventually gained support from the Royal Society. Bruce funded his journey to Africa from wealth gained through his family business of coal mining, providing him with the finances he needed. However, Bruce needed to rely on himself for gaining support of the African locals, while Catesby had the help of the Royal society when reaching America.

The publics reaction to these two explorers was also very different. In general, the public discredited much of Bruce's findings, claiming that he romanticized much of his stories. On the other hand, naturalists in Europe found Catesby's work to be so fascinating and unique that they helped raise finances from the Royal Society. Catesby illustrated many unseen animals and plants, providing Europe with a peak into the New World's natural history. While Bruce is often called the 'Abyssinian Liar', Catesby is seen as the first European Naturalist that explored America. 

In short, Catesby did natural history right, while Bruce did it wrong. Catesby explored the new world with the intentions of bringing back knowledge and beautiful illustrations of unseen plants and animals to Europe. Bruce depicted nature in a inaccurate and exagerated way. He used these illustrations to make his stories more exciting and even took the credit for the illustrations when they were not his. Catesby and Bruce are both very important explorers of their times, but Catesby presented Europe with an accurate and impressive depiction of the natural history of the New World.


"Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands." Catesby's Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Accessed May 22, 2015.

Meyers, Amy, and Margaret Pritchard. Empire's Nature: Mark Catesby's New World Vision. Williamsburg, Virginia: Omohundro Institute, 1998.

Catesby, Mark, and George Frederick Frick. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. Savannah, Ga.: Beehive Press, 1974.

Mark Catesby
Catesby's Journey Compared to Bruce's Journey