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Watercolour of Buckingham House's East Library

George III amassed an extensive collection of books and manuscripts

Mark Catesby (1682–1749)

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, vol. 1 1731

53.0 x 7.5 cm (book measurement (inventory)) | RCIN 1085716

In the early eighteenth century the English naturalist Mark Catesby made two extended expeditions to the British colonies on the east coast of North America in order to document the indigenous flora and fauna.

The result was an extraordinary visual record of the plants, mammals, lizards, snakes, insects, corals, fish and birds that Catesby encountered on his travels. This unique copy was purchased by George III in 1768. The volume originally contained Catesby’s collection of preparatory drawings for his publication. The originals have been removed, conserved and mounted, and they have been replaced in the volumes with facsimiles.