Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rod Page Talks Bioinformatics, Linked Data, and Primary Literature at the Smithsonian

On 22 September, Dr. Rod Page, Professor at the University of Glasgow and creator of BioStor, gave a presentation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Library about ideas for extracting and linking data across biodiversity repositories and primary literature.

The talk, entitled "The Sam Adams Talk," covered topics including phylogenetics, geophylogeny visualizations, linking article and specimen data across repositories, annotations, the biodiversity knowledge graph, and data as source code. A lively Q&A session between Rod and the audience followed the presentation.

You can view a recording of the presentation on YouTube.

Rod's talk at the Smithsonian followed the Scientific Collections International Food Security Symposium at the National Agricultural Library, 19-21 September. At the invitation of BHL, Rod gave a presentation at the symposium about using publication data to support food security research. You can view Rod's Food Security Symposium presentation, entitled "Unknown Knowns, Long Tails, and Long Data", on his Slideshare.

Visit Rod's blog iPhylo and follow him on Twitter at @rdmpage to see more of his thoughts on bioinformatics, linked data, and primary literature.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stressors and Drivers of Food Security: Evidence from Scientific Collections

Stressors and Drivers of Food Security: Evidence from Scientific Collections
19-21 September 2016
National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD
Hosted by: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Stressors and Drivers of Food Security: Evidence from Scientific Collections workshop was organized by Scientific Collections International (SciColl) at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland, 19-21 September 2016. The SciColl mission is "Increase the use and impact of scientific collections for interdisciplinary research and societal benefits" and "Expand the access, awareness and appreciation of scientific collections." The "Stressors and Drivers of Food Security" workshop was designed to help show the importance of scientific collections to the topic of food security.

The first day opened with welcomes from Paul Wester, Director of the National Agricultural Library and Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics at the US Department of Agriculture. David Schindel (Chairman, SciColl Executive Board) then gave an overview of SciColl to the approximately 40 attendees from around the world.

Two keynote talks followed. The first, from David Inouye (Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland and Principal Investigator at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory) covered the importance of collections and field studies of pollinators in fostering food security. Kristen Gremillion (Professor at the Ohio State University) followed with a talk on the fascinating topic of ancient crops, archaeological collections, and food security.
The keynotes were followed by a series of short talks from:

Grace Costantino from the Biodiversity Heritage Library gave a talk entitled "Literature Resources to Support Food Security Research: An Introduction to the BHL".

The second day of the meeting was focused on four sessions devoted to presentations about different research challenges, followed by commentaries and discussion by panelists representing different collection domains. The focus was on how different collection types could contribute to research.

Martin Kalfatovic, BHL Program Director, chaired the first session, "Varieties of Food," that featured talks from Rod Page (University of Glasgow), "Unknown Knowns, Long Tails, and Long Data", and Ari Novy (Director, US Botanic Garden). The session was followed by comments from a reactor panel and discussion from the audience. The remaining sessions followed a similar format with reactor panels and audience discussion.

Biological Stressors and Aides
Biological Stressors and Aides
  • Kevin McCluskey, Kansas State University
  • Marcia Maués, Embrapa 
Environmental Stressors and Benefits
Feeding the 10 Billion
Feeding the 10 Billion
The closing day of the workshop was devoted to developing new strategies and discussing next steps. Breakout groups were organized to discuss the following topics:
  • New strategies for increasing the use and impact of collections and associated databases for food security research
  • Case studies that exemplify cross-cutting and forward-thinking uses of collections and associated databases for food security research
  • Major recommendations for the research and collections communities, funding agencies, and/or networks (such as SciColl)
The results of the workshop will be published later this year in a white paper. The video recordings of the workshop are available on the SciColl YouTube channel.

More information:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jesús Sánchez's Mexican Medical Zoology

By: Minerva Castro Escamilla.
Librarian. Biblioteca Conjunta de Ciencias de la Tierra,
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). BHL México

Sánchez, Jesús. Datos para la zoología médica mexicana: arácnidos é insectos. México: Oficina Tipográfica de la Secretaría de Fomento, 1893. viii, 189, iv pages, 9 leaves of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm.

Parra, Alfonso. Atlas histórico de la Escuela Nacional Preparatoria: desde su fundación hasta los momentos de celebrarse el centenario de la proclamación de la Independencia, septiembre 15 de 1910 / México : [Escuela Nacional Preparatoria], 1910. 1 vol.

With the single purpose of serving the country and with the belief that scientific study should be used with practical ends, Doctor Jesús Sánchez elaborated his essay on Mexican Medical Zoology (Datos para la zoología médica mexicana), where he acknowledges “the value of studying the animal kingdom, within which exists a vast variety that can offer both benefits and diseases”.

Equally, he states that it “is not only important to study the organisms living inside our own bodies, it is also necessary to know those whose venoms, when inoculated in the human body, can cause, from very light inconveniences, to very serious symptoms and even death”. That is why the author developed an essay about this topic, identifying, describing and studying arachnids and insects from several parts of Mexico that cause damage to the human health.

Doctor Jesús Sánchez was a physician by profession, a member of the Academy of Medicine, and responsible of the professorships in Zoology and Biology at the National High School and the National School of Agriculture, where he has dedicated several years to the compilation of insects; these where included in his work of Mexican Medical Zoology, published in 1893. A second edition or reprint of this work has never been published.

Thelyphonus giganteus. Vinagrillo. (Seg. Lucas).

During the development of this work, Doctor Sánchez exchanged knowledge, talks and experiences with the doctors and brothers Alfredo and Eugenio Dugés. Alfredo Dugés was a great illustrator who made a perfect descriptive work of the Aquatic Spider, or hydroarachnid, native of Guanajuato. Dugés directed Sánchez and recommended the research of other zoology scholars, like Fernando Altamirano, Lauro Jimenez, Antonio Peñafiel, Alfonso Herrera and Gumersindo Mendoza, among others, as well as other prominent publications from the naturalists Francisco J. Clavijero and Jose Alzate Ramirez.

Datos para la zoología médica mexicana describes, in a detailed manner, nine orders of arachnids and scorpions, as well as five orders of insects, ants and bees, using a mixture of a colloquial and technical language, explaining symptoms, cures and medicines that can be used to fight against symptoms caused by the bites or contact with insects. Within his work we can find a remarkably detailed index of every order and term, as well as illustrations for context.

7. Horia maculata. 9. Treiodous barranci (macho). 10. Treiodous barranci (hembra).

One can appreciate nine pages that contain the illustrations of arachnids, scorpions, several insects, ants and bees, elaborated by hand with colours identical to those of the studied animals.

Being a professor of the National High School, Sánchez's published works supported the students with knowledge and practical applications; he offered his expertise during his lectures and turned new students towards the development of science and knowledge.

Sarcoptes scabiei (hembra). Visto por el dorso. (seg. Gudden).

Doctor Jesús Sánchez is also the author of other works related to the Mexican Medical Zoology of arachnids and insects, such as: Elementos de historia natural en forma de lecciones de cosas: Obra escrita expresamente para uso de las escuelas primarias de la nación, published in the year 1895 and available in BHL thanks to the Joint Library of Earth Sciences (Biblioteca Conjunta de Ciencias de la Tierra, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, UNAM), and the introduction of the work: Breve noticia de los establecimientos de instrucción dependientes de la Secretaría de Estado y del Despacho de Justicia e Instrucción Pública, edited in the year 1900.

Ladilla o piojo del pubis.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

BHL Welcomes Adriana Marroquin, Field Notes Project Manager

Adriana Marroquin recently joined the BHL as the Field Notes Project Manager. This isn’t Adriana’s first time with the BHL or Smithsonian Libraries. She interned for the BHL and the Smithsonian Botany & Horticulture library after graduate school, and later worked as a library technician at the Anthropology, and American Art/Portrait Gallery libraries. In 2014, she compiled and wrote BHL’s Latino Natural History exhibition. Earlier this year she worked on the AA/PG’s Art & Artist Corporate Files Database.

As the Field Notes Project Manager, Adriana will coordinate the activities of the BHL Field Notes project across the participating institutions. Related to the Smithsonian Field Book Project, the BHL Field Notes Project will digitize approximately 50 complete collections of primary natural history field research material, resulting in hundreds of thousands of digitized pages. This material will offer researchers access to a rich source of field notes, including diaries, journals, correspondence, and photographs. It’s an exciting project, and Adriana is looking forward to being a part of it.

She completed a BFA in writing, literature and publishing at Emerson College, during which she was a paleoecology lab intern at Harvard Forest with Dr. W. Wyatt Oswald. She went on to complete her MLS at the University of Maryland. In addition to her time at BHL and Smithsonian, Adriana’s library career has taken her to a variety of libraries, including a public law library, and BHL Members Harvard Botany Libraries and Library of Congress. Her interests include Halloween, Dungeons & Dragons, knitting, and comics. In the past few years, her interest in comics has leaked into her professional life. She volunteered at the Library of Congress processing the Small Press Expo mini-comics collection, and periodically writes for No Flying No Tights, a comics resource for librarians.

The BHL Field Notes Project is generously funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). More information on the CLIR Hidden Collections competition is available here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Page Frights Is Coming This October!

Get ready for a ghoulishly good time this October...Page Frights is coming!

From 1-31 October, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world will be gearing up for Halloween by sharing spooky, creepy, or otherwise frightening books and images from their collections on social media using the hashtag #PageFrights. Follow along and join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media sites. Visit to learn more.

We'll also be inviting you to carve pumpkins using patterns inspired by #PageFrights content. Participating institutions will create pumpkin carving patterns based on images from their collections, and these patterns will be freely available to download from the Page Frights website starting in October. We encourage you to share your carved pumpkins on social media using the #PageFrights hashtag.

Image from: Denys de Montfort, Pierre. Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière des mollusques. t. 2 (1801). GIF created by Richard Naples of Smithsonian Libraries.

Finally, we’re joining the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) GIF IT UP fun and encouraging you to create GIFs based on #PageFrights images. GIF IT UP is a challenge to find the best GIFs created from copyright-free heritage materials found in DPLA, DigitalNZ, Trove, or Europeana. BHL serves as a digital content hub for DPLA. Learn more on the Page Frights website.

Page Frights was inspired by the 2015 #creepyarchives campaign launched by the Medical Historical Library at Yale University. #PageFrights is spearheaded by the Biodiversity Heritage Library, The New York Academy of Medicine, the Medical Historical Library at Yale University, and Smithsonian Libraries. Visit the website to see a full list of participating institutions to date.

If you're an institution interested in participating in Page Frights, we'd love for you to join us! Find out how you can join the Page Frights fun.

So be sure to follow #PageFrights on social media starting this October and visit the website for more great content...if you dare!!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The New York Entomological Society

The New York Entomological Society (NYES), founded in 1892, is one of the oldest, continually active entomological societies in the U.S. The Brooklyn Entomological Society, which predates the NYES by 20 years, merged with it in 1968.

Through the Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature project, the NYES recently gave BHL permission to digitize its journalsEntomologica Americana (v.1-49, 1885-1975) and the Journal of the New York Entomological Society (v.1-107, 1893-1999)as well as the Bulletin of the Brooklyn Entomological Society (v.1-60, 1878-1965). Most of the issues have been digitized and are now available in BHL.

History of the NYES

Zethus slossonae, named after Annie Trumbull Slosson
(photo by Bob Peterson, Flickr)
On June 29th, 1892, five men gathered in the home of entomologist Charles Palm (not to be confused with the other Charles Palm, also a New York entomologist) for the first meeting of the NYES. Their first order of business was to elect three members, including Annie Trumbull Slosson (Leng, 130). Years later, she described her first meeting: 

I shall never forget the sensation produced by my unexpected entrance into that scientific meeting. Through the smoke of pipes and over mugs of some beverage which foamed in the gas-light in a sudsy sort of way, I saw startled, embarrassed faces ... The host himself, good Mr. Palm, seemed somewhat embarrassed. After seating me in the most comfortable chair unoccupied, he hastened away to order coffee for me as more appropriate and fitting drink for a feminine throat (Klots, 139).

Despite taking up entomology in middle age (she was previously a fiction writer) and having no formal education in it, Slosson would become one of the Society's most accomplished members. She amassed a large specimen collection, now housed at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and has a genus and over 100 species (slossonae) named after her. She also authored numerous articles in the journals of the NYES and other entomological organizations and was instrumental in moving NYES meetings to the AMNH (Seltmann). 

Photo of Annie Trumbull Slosson from
Journal of the New York Entomological Society, v.34 no.4 (1926)

Though NYES membership hovered around ten individuals in the first decade of its existence, the Society began publishing the Journal of the New York Entomological Society in 1893. Slosson was its chief contributor, and the sale of her collected specimens at auction funded the journal and ensured regular publication. Another member who contributed to the journal's early success was Louis H. Joutel, who, in addition to serving as the Society's treasurer and secretary, was an accomplished illustrator; his drawings appear throughout early volumes of the journal (Leng, 130). 

"Dominican Sphingidae"
by Louis Joutel, from
Journal of the New York Entomological Society, v.15 (1907) 
Within a few years, the Society had begun to broaden its reach. In 1895 it joined the Scientific Alliance of New York, which included distinguished organizations like the New York Academy of Sciences and the Torrey Botanical Society, and strengthened its relationship with the AMNH, where it enjoyed access to the library and collections in the position of "a non-paying tenant with a generous landlord" (Klots, 146).

By all accounts, Society meetings were an occasion for the sharing of exciting specimen finds as well as good food and drink. Above all, they were informal. Elsie Klots wrote that "During the nineteen thirties and early forties speakers were so often startled by the steady click of knitting needles and the ominous waving of an ear trumpet that it became customary to explain to them, before the meeting, that the occupants of the front row were the faithful wives of some of our elder members and that they were an accepted and beloved part of our meetings" (Klots, 143-144).

In 1942, the NYES celebrated its 50th anniversary, with nearly half of its 26 former presidents in attendance. In 1949, the Society put on a public exhibit of insect photography in Roosevelt Hall, at the AMNH. It proved so popular that a second exhibit the following year was moved to the museum's foyer. It featured photographs, paintings, drawings, publications by Society members, equipment, and insect origami. In 1964, the NYES convened for a third special meeting to honor four individuals who had been members for over 50 years. Dr. E.R.P. Janvrin, who joined in 1902, held the distinction of longest membership (Klots, 140). 

From the beginning, the NYES maintained a close relationship with the Brooklyn Entomological Society, its elder neighbor. Members of each society were invited to the other's meetings and field trips, and in 1903 the NYES began devoting two pages of its journal to publish the proceedings of the Brooklyn Society (Klots, 145). The incorporation of the Brooklyn Entomological Society into the NYES, celebrated on October 29, 1968 (the 75th anniversary of the NYES) was thus a natural union for two organizations whose activities had converged for a long time. 

Drawing for a NY Eats Bugs dinner hosted
by the NYES and others in 2015 (unknown artist)
The NYES celebrated its centennial on May 20th, 1992, with a banquet at the Explorers Club in New York City. The major draw of the evening was its theme: insects as food. Guests enjoyed a variety of appetizers and desserts with insects as ingredients, as well as a talk by keynote speaker Dr. Gene DeFoliart of the University of Wisconsin, an expert on the subject (Society History). The NYES has since participated in similar "bug banquets" at the Explorers Club.

Today, the NYES continues to meet at the AMNH on the third Tuesday of every month, September through May (excluding December). Professional and amateur entomologists alike hear talks by invited speakers on topics of entomological and biological significance. The Society also continues to publish its journal, which in 2009 was renamed Entomologica Americana (also the title of the Brooklyn Entomological Society's journal, which ceased publication in 1975. 

We are grateful to the NYES for sharing its rich legacy of entomological scholarship with BHL and with researchers around the world!

Note: this post has been edited to remove the incorrect statement that the NYES is the third or fourth oldest entomological society in the U.S.

Patrick Randall
Community Manager
Expanding Access to Biodiversity Literature


Klots, Elsie B. "The History of the New York Entomological Society." Journal of the New York Entomological Society 76, no. 3 (1968): 138-155.

Leng, Charles W. "History of the New York Entomological Society, 1893-1918." Journal of the New York Entomological Society 26, no. 3/4 (1918): 129-133.

Seltmann, Katja. "Collector Spotlight: Annie Trumbull Slosson." Tri-Trophic Thematic Collection Network. Last modified September 12, 2013.

"Society History." The New York Entomological Society, Inc. Accessed September 14, 2016.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Beyond Tunnels & Bigamy: The Scientific Contributions of the Infamous Harrison Dyar

Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., third from right, with Entomology staff of the U.S. National Museum in 1905. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives.

If you have ever heard of entomologist Harrison Dyar, there's a good chance that it was in relation to a series of tunnels that he dug beneath Washington, D.C. Or it may have been in relation to his bigamy. But if that's all you know about Dyar, then you only know the tabloid tales.

Harrison Dyar was Honorary Custodian of Lepidoptera at the United States National Museum for over 30 years. He studied sawflies, moths, butterflies and mosquitos and described hundreds of species and genera. He also contributed significantly to the study of insect development by formulating Dyar’s Law of Geometric Growth. By observing that the width of caterpillar heads was fixed within each stage of development, Dyar realized that he could use a ratio to predict the width of the head at various stages of development, and that this ratio could in turn be used to differentiate insect instars. By using this law, entomologists can identify the developmental stage of an immature insect.

Dyar's field notebooks, including his "blue books" and "catalogue" as they're called, contain valuable information both on Dyar's scientific research and aspects of his personal life. For instance, they include his scientific observations made while rearing specimens, head width data used to formulate Dyar's Law, and, on a more personal note, the identity of relatives who helped Dyar collect and rear insects.

Image Source: Smithsonian Libraries.

Dyar's field notebooks, which are held by the Smithsonian Institution Archives, have been digitized as part of The Field Book Project and are available in BHL, making it much easier for researchers around the world to access and study Dyar's work.

Drawing from a Dyar blue book. H. G. Dyar bluebook 575 - 625. 1896-1898. Digitized by Smithsonian Institution Archives.

One such researcher that has benefited from online access to this materials is Dr. Marc Epstein, Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History and Senior Insect Biosystematist (Lepidoptera) at the Plant Pest Diagnostics Center of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Epstein has studied Dyar's work and legacy extensively and has authored a biography on this remarkable entomologist entitled Moths, Myths and Mosquitos:The Eccentric Life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr.. Marc discovered BHL, thanks to recommendations from his colleagues, around the time that our online library launched. Since then, BHL's collections have had an immense impact on Marc's research.

Dr. Marc Epstein. Image Source: California Department of Food and Agriculture.

"Even though I’m fortunate to have a good entomology library at the Plant Pest Diagnostics Center in Sacramento, CA, BHL has provided me access to so many journals that I haven't had easy access to in California since with my move here in 2003," asserts Marc. "In fact BHL has often provided me with the very copies I used to refer to in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) libraries!"

BHL has greatly facilitated Marc's research on Lepidoptera and more specifically on Harrison Dyar.

"Day to day BHL has helped me do my job to identify Lepidoptera that threaten California agriculture, while providing a tremendous boost to my research projects," explains Marc. "These have included the completion of Moths, Myths, and Mosquitoes: the Eccentric Life of Harrison G. Dyar, Jr. as well as studies on Costa Rican moths and the evolution of Lepidoptera and their caterpillars.

"Related to the Moths, Myths, and Mosquitoes, it enabled me to much more efficiently transcribe portions of Dyar’s hand-written notebooks, once in my office at NMNH. Prior to the availability of these notebooks on BHL, The Field Book Project at the Smithsonian provided me with electronic files of all of the notebooks, which are now becoming available along with transcriptions made by a corps of volunteers. Having both BHL and the notebooks on my [computer] desktop in Sacramento has enabled me to transcribe portions needed for my research while in Sacramento and saved me valuable time to focus on specimens during my visits to the NMNH entomology collections."

The volunteer transcriptions that Marc refers to were the result of the May 2016 #DigIntoDyar campaign, which challenged volunteers to help transcribe five of Dyar's blue books within the Smithsonian Transcription Center. The five blue books constituted a total of 169 pages, 60% of which were fully transcribed by over 60 volunteers by the end of May. Today, all 169 pages have been fully transcribed (thank you, citizen science volunteers!). You can browse the transcriptions in the Smithsonian Transcription Center at the links below:

H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 401- 414, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 415-435, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 436-450, 1893-1894 |
H. G. Dyar - Bluebook 451-473, 1894 |
H. G. Dyar, Bluebook 474-491, 1894-1897 |

A page from H. G. Dyar bluebook 401 - 414 (1893-94), transcribed in the Smithsonian Transcription Center.

Interested in learning more about Harrison Dyar's work and contributions? Then check out this Google Hangout from Smithsonian Libraries with Dr. Epstein. You can also learn more in this series of blog posts that Dr. Epstein wrote for Smithsonian Libraries as part of #DigIntoDyar.

Harrison Dyar's contributions to science may often be overshadowed by his intriguing personal life, but hopefully the efforts of Dr. Epstein and others will ensure that his entire legacy is appreciated and remembered. We're proud to be able to provide free, online access to materials, like the "blue books" and "catalogue," that make it easier for researchers to study Dyar's work.


This post may contain the personal opinions of BHL users or affiliated staff and does not necessarily represent the official Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) position on these matters.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Catesby's Magnificent Natural History, In Three Editions

First published illustration of a passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). Pictured with American turkey oak (Quercus laevis). Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 1, ed. 1, pl. 23. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

In May of 1729, the first part of the first fully illustrated book on the flora and fauna of North America was presented to the Royal Society. Upon the conclusion of the work, Royal Society Secretary Cromwell Mortimer praised it as "the most magnificent Work I know of, since the Art of Printing has been discovered" (Nelson and Elliott, 165).

The work was The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, and all told it was issued in eleven parts (including an appendix) over an eighteen year period (from 1729-1747). It included 220 plates and accompanying pages of text, a map and account of North America, two indices, a preface, a dedication, and a list of subscribers.

The author of the work was Mark Catesby.

An expansive account of Catesby's life and work is captured in The Curious Mister Catesby, edited by E. Charles Nelson and David J. Elliott, which received the 2016 CBHL (The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries) Annual Literature Award for Overall Significant Contribution to the Literature of Botany or Horticulture. This work allows us to appreciate the extent of Catesby's contribution to the study of North American biodiversity.

Mark Catesby was born on 24 March 1682/83 in England (probably in Castle Hedingham, Essex), the (probably) fifth son of John Catesby, a gentleman who became mayor of Sudbury in 1673. When John died in 1703, Mark received a substantial inheritance that included property in Sudbury and London, providing him with a level of security that would allow him to pursue his interest in natural history (Nelson and Elliott, 3-4, hereafter referred to as "N&E").

Wood duck (Aix sponsa). Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 1, ed. 1. pl. 97. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

Catesby first set foot in North America in 1712. Serving as chaperone for his sister Elizabeth, whose husband Dr. William Cocke had arrived in Virginia some two years earlier, Catesby was hosted principally by prominent Virginian citizen William Byrd II during this first visit. Shortly after his arrival, Catesby began collecting plants, specimens of which he sent across the Atlantic to Samuel Dale and Dr. Henry Compton (Bishop of London). During these first several years in America, Catesby also visited Jamaica, Bermuda, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico (N&E, 8).

Catesby returned to England in 1719, possibly in response to his brother's death two years earlier (N&E, 9). He was, however, determined to return to North America and continue his study of the land's rich flora and fauna. In 1722, he got his wish. This time, his trip was sponsored by members of the Royal Society, who hoped that he would collect specimens from and generally enhance natural history knowledge about this New World. From 1722-early 1725, Catesby explored and collected in South Carolina. The following year, from 1725-26, Catesby ventured to the Bahamas to continue his research (N&E, 12-13).

Catesby's map of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands with the Adjacent Parts.  Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 1, ed. 1. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

During his time in America, Catesby not only collected specimens, many of which he sent back to England, but he also produced sketches and watercolors of the species he encountered. According to Henrietta McBurney, who wrote a chapter for The Curious Mister Catesby on Mark's preparatory drawings for Natural History, the challenges of transporting the necessary art equipment into the field probably meant that Catesby made field drawings in pen and ink while traveling through the country and then worked up folio-sized watercolors, which would later be translated to etched plates for his publication, back at his lodgings (N&E, 143). At all times, Catesby placed great emphasis on portraying each species in as life-like a manner as possible, working from live animals when possible and obtaining fresh supplies of specimens, like fish, whose color and appearance change rapidly after death (N&E, 145).

Queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris). Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1, pl. 31. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

In 1726, Catesby left the Bahamas and returned to England with the intention of publishing his accounts and illustrations in "a large folio on a grand, almost unprecedented scale" (N&E, 155). Leslie K. Overstreet, Curator of Natural History Rare Books at the Smithsonian Libraries, provides an extensive examination of Catesby's publication within the twelfth chapter of The Curious Mister Catesby.

According to Ms. Overstreet, Catesby opted to print the work at his own expense. Fortunately, his friend Peter Collinson, a Quaker merchant and Fellow of the Royal Society, agreed to lend Catesby funds to support the publication. These funds were not sufficient to cover the cost of expert engravers, so Catesby hired professional artist Joseph Goupy to teach him how to etch so that Catesby could work up the plates for his publication himself (N&E, 155).

Proposal or prospectus soliciting subscribers for Natural History. Dating from late 1729. Catesby, Mark. The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. v. 1, ed. 1. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries.

In order to ensure that enough copies of the work would be sold to justify the cost of its production, Catesby solicited subscribers for Natural History. He distributed a prospectus instructing people who wished to obtain a copy of the work to sign up as subscribers (N&E, 156). The prospectus indicated that he intended to publish the book in parts of 20 plates and accompanying text issued every four months. Subscribers could elect to receive colored plates for two guineas a part or uncolored plates for one guinea per part (N&E, 159). The prospectus also directed potential subscribers to view his original artwork, which would be featured in the publication, at Thomas Fairchild's nursery in Hoxton (N&E, 147).

All told, Catesby's final version of the "List of the Encouragers" (a list of the work's subscribers, which, as was customary at this time, are listed within the publication) includes 155 names (N&E, 159).

Assured that the book would sell, Catesby set about producing the publication, which included not only etching the copper plates and writing the text, but also hand-coloring (maybe not all) the prints as well (N&E, 158).  Catesby also enlisted a friend, who requested to remain unnamed, to translate the text into French. The final publication included a column of English text alongside a column of French text (N&E, 13).

Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) and American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). Catesby's squirrel borrowed from drawing by Everhard Kick. Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1. pl. 76. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

For the plates, Catesby used his own watercolors and also borrowed and included illustrations from other artists. For example, Catesby's depiction of the southern flying squirrel in plate 76 was borrowed from Dutch artist Everhard Kick (N&E, 150-151). Artists Georg Dionysius Ehret and George Edwards also contributed drawings to the work (N&E, 152-153).

Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Illustration etched for Catesby by Georg Dionysius Ehret after Ehret's own watercolor painting. Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1. pl. 61. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

Due to the amount of work required for the publication, Catesby was not able to adhere to his one part every four months plan. However, he continued to steadily produce new parts, which were sent to his subscribers. The first four parts of the work were issued in numerous typesettings, as Catesby was apparently cautious about ordering too many copies of each part (many subscribers signed up over the life of the publication, so Catesby was not working with a fixed number of "Encouragers"), which in turn required him to order additional copies of the early parts as new subscribers signed on. By the fifth part, however, we see only one typesetting, indicating that Catesby was confident enough in his sales that he ordered sufficient quantities to meet demand (N&E, 160-163).

In 1743, the last part of volume 2 was presented to the Royal Society. Four years later, in 1747, the appendix, consisting of an additional twenty plates and text, was presented, bringing the first edition to completion (N&E, 158). Approximately 180-200 copies were produced, only about 100 of which survive. There are only a few known perfect copies of this first edition, and of these, only the Smithsonian Libraries' copy (which is freely available in BHL) contains "all three pieces of ephemera relating to the production of the work" (N&E, 165).

Eastern mudsnake (Farancia abacura) and pine lily (Lilium catesbaei). Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1. pl. 58. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

A second edition of Natural History was produced by George Edwards in 1754, five years after Catesby's death in 1749. This edition is identical to the first, and many copies even include leftover printed sheets from the first edition. The plates for the 2nd edition were produced using Catesby's original copper plates, but the coloring tends to be brighter than those completed by Catesby himself (N&E, 166-168). The 2nd edition is freely available in BHL thanks to the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) and gullfeed (Scaevola plumieri). Comparing plate from edition 1 (left) with plate from edition 2 (right). Left: v. 1, ed. 1, pl. 79. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall: Right: v. 1, ed. 2, pl. 79. Digitized by Missouri Botanical Garden. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

A 3rd edition was published in 1771 by bookseller Benjamin White. This edition is made up of completely reset text and the Linnaean binomials have been added where available. While the edition did use Catesby's original copper plates, the plates from the 3rd edition are significantly more brightly colored than those of the first edition (N&E, 168-169). The 3rd edition is freely available in BHL thanks to the University Library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Purple land crab (Gecarcinus ruricola) and blackwood (Picrodendron baccatum). Comparing plate from edition 1 (left) with plate from edition 3 (right). Left: v. 2, ed. 1, pl. 32. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall: Right: v. 2, ed. 3, pl. 32. Digitized by University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

All of the plates from all three editions are available in the BHL Flickr. Thanks to BHL citizen scientist Michelle Marshall (also the curator of BHL's Instagram), all plates from all editions have been tagged with the common, given and currently accepted scientific names for each species. The Curious Mister Catesby, which includes a species list by James L. Reveal in the book's appendix (N&E, 331-341), was used to verify the current accepted name for each species. This not only allows you to search Catesby's illustrations by taxonomic name, but it also allows us to compare the differences in the illustrations across editions. To compare illustrations across editions, search BHL's Flickr photostream by BHLCatesby AND "[scientific name]", inserting the scientific name of a species depicted by Catesby in the brackets where indicated.

Catesby's work, and particularly his illustrations, are significant for a variety of reasons. As the first fully illustrated book on the flora and fauna of North America, this book was the first introduction for many Europeans to much of the biodiversity of the New World. Beyond this, Catesby's work was a significant resource for Carl Linnaeus, whose binomial system for naming plants (which he introduced in print with his Species Plantarum in 1753) and animals (applied in his Systema Naturae, 1758) is still used today (N&E, 189).

Species description for Greater Antillean bullfinch (Loxigilla violacea, previously Loxia violacea) in Systema Naturae, v. 1 (1758). Catesby is the only reference that Linnaeus cites for this species name. Digitized by the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Linnaeus cited Catesby extensively in Species Plantarum and Systema Naturae, showing that Natural History enhanced Linnaeus' understanding of many species. 131 of the 187 plants depicted by Catesby were cited by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum (N&E, 201). Additionally, Linnaeus referenced Catesby 139 times in Systema Naturae (N&E, 254-255). For some of these references, Catesby was the sole source of information for Linnaeus on a given species, and Catesby's illustrations serve as the type for several of Linnaeus' species names. In Species Plantarum, for example, 17 of Linnaeus' species entries cite only Catesby, while Catesby's plates serve as the type for 34 of the species in that work (N&E, 201). For 52 of the species entries in Systema Naturae, Catesby was Linnaeus' only reference (N&E, 255).

Lily thorn (Catesbaea spinosa). Pictured with zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus). Catesby is the only source that Linnaeus cited when naming Catesbaea spinosa in Species Plantarum (1753). This engraving serves as the type for this name. Catesby, Mark. The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands. v. 2, ed. 1. pl. 100. Digitized by Smithsonian Libraries. Taxon tagged in Flickr by Michelle Marshall:

The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands represents a milestone in the cultivation of natural history knowledge. We are indebted to this "ingenious" naturalist Mark Catesby who dedicated his life to capturing and describing the biodiverse wonders of the New World. What a wondrously beautiful and curious world we live in.

Grace Costantino
Outreach and Communication Manager
Biodiversity Heritage Library

Nelson, E C, and David J. Elliott. The Curious Mister Catesby: A "truly Ingenious" Naturalist Explores New Worlds., 2015. Print.