The 18th Century Search for the Blue Nile

Mark Catesby's Second Journey

After a very successful journey, Catesby was eager to return home to Europe and share his findings. He returned to London in October of 1719, and began sharing his knowledge. He originally shared his illustrations with his old colleagues, including his uncle. But when they realized the extent of his beautiful drawings and detailed knowledge of the flora and fauna of the New World, many other botanists become interested. In particular, William Sherard, who was a well know naturalist, began discussing a return back to America with a larger crew.

Sherard was such a big advocate of Catesby’s work that he said, “He designs and paints in water colours to perfection” (Meyers, 5). In fact, Sherard would be seen as the main reason for Catesby’s second journey to America, as he convinced the Royal Society to give a pension of twenty pounds per year. However, Colonel Francis Nicholson, would accompany Catesby on the journey to South Carolina, where Nicholson was soon to become Royal Governor.

By May of 1722, Catesby arrived in South Carolina, yet again having the resources and connections he needed to move inland and further explore the New World. Catesby stayed in the Carolinas and Georgia for almost four years, until he departed to the Bahamas in the attempt to find new wildlife in what was a much different habitat. Although Catesby admitted that he did not draw as many mammals as he had hoped, due to the strong similarities to mammals in Europe, he still was able to illustrate a number of fascinating and unfamiliar animals to the European naturalists.

After a three year journey, Catesby returns home to London with an even more impressive and vast amount of knowledge from the New World. Now with an impressive collection of illustrations, Catesby will spend years preparing a book of illustrations and descriptions of the naturalistic history of the New World, and scholars for years to come will build off his knowledge and stare in awe at his water color art work.


"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.

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