The Hawks-bill Turtle.
Original Author: Mark Catesby
Created: 1743
Medium: Hand-colored etching
Publisher: University of Virginia Special Collections

The Hawks-bill Turtle.

This hand-colored etching of a hawksbill sea turtle from the Bahamas is from the 1743 edition of Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (volume 2). An English naturalist and artist, Catesby published the first comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of the English colonies of North America. In his accompanying text, Catesby wrote: "This Kind of Turtle receives its Name from the Form of its Mouth, resembling that of an [sic] Hawk's beak." This species, he noted, was particularly valued for the "Strength and Beauty" of its shell. In 2016, 6he hawksbill was a critically endangered sea turtle.

Catesby arrived in Williamsburg in 1712 and stayed there for lengthy periods with his sister, Elizabeth Catesby Cocke, and her husband, Dr. William Cocke, while he began his botanical and zoological collecting trips in Virginia and the West Indies. On returning to England in 1719, his illustrations were impressive enough to earn him funding for a second expedition to the colonies, which lasted from 1722 until 1726. Catesby resettled in London, learned how to etch his own plates based on his watercolor drawings, and produced his monumental book in stages over a period of nearly twenty years, from 1729 to 1747. King George III purchased Catesby's original watercolors in 1768.

Citation: The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands. QH41 .C26 1731. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.