Seligmann, Johann (1720-1762)


Charming Eighteenth-Century Bird Engravings
by Joseph Seligmann, after Mark Catesby and George Edwards

Johann Michael Seligmann (1720-1762)
Hand-colored copperplate engravings, each 15 ½" x 10"
From Sammlung Verschiedener Auslandischer und Seltener Vögel (Nuremberg, 1749-76)

Mark Catesby (1682-1749) was born and educated in England, and was originally sent to Carolina by the Royal Society in 1722 as a botanist. From there he traveled to Florida and the Bahamas, returning to England in 1726 with a vast store of information on the wildlife he had observed. By the spring of 1729, he had completed the first part of his landmark Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1734-1746), but it was not until 1746 that the work was finally finished. Catesby's publication became the earliest colorplate book on American birds.

Catesby's contemporary George Edwards (1694-1773) was also an ornithologist and bird illustrator, much influenced by the work of his colleague. Edwards is best known as the author of his Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1743-51) and Gleanings of Natural History (1758-1764). The illustrations that graced these works were valued for their landscape backgrounds, which were unusual at the time.