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Before Kermit, There Was Catesby


There's a whole lot of Muppet talk around the Library these days, because the Library for the Performing Arts has opened their newest exhibition, “Somebody Come and Play:” 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder. The exhibition's bound to charm both current viewers of Sesame Street as well as people like me, who grew up with the Muppets (and who might have also fallen in love with a certain green one at an early age).
Rana Maxima
Rana maxima, The Bull-Frog; Helleborena, The Lady's Slipper of Pennsylvania.

Kermit the Frog has always been my favorite Jim Henson creation, and my first childhood crush as well. Although many people associate Kermit with The Muppet Show, he played many parts on Sesame Street over the years too, and I always loved seeing him in whatever role he played.  

Rana Terrestris
Rana Terrestris, The Land-Frog; Sarracena.

My devotion to Kermit has led to a love for frogs in print as well, from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books to Ken Kimura's 999 Frogs. And whenever I examine illustrated natural histories in the Rare Book Division where I work, I'm always on the lookout for Kermit's amphibious ancestors. Some of my favorite frogs are in Mark Catesby's The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects and plants: particulary the forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by authors... 

Rana viridis arborea
Rana viridis arborea, The Green-Tree Frog; Arum Americanum, The Scunk Weed.

Mark Catesby was a largely self-trained English botanist and plant collector, and he accomplished something quite tremendous: he researched, wrote, and illustrated the first book to depict North America's plants and animals. Catesby traveled to the English colonies in North America twice, spending many years there collecting seeds and specimens, and studying and sketching the continent's birds, fish, snakes, and mammals. 

Rana aquatica
Rana Aquatica, The Water-Frog; Sarracena.

The frogs pictured  above are reproduced from original hand colored etchings in the Rare Book Division's 1754 edition of Catesby's book. His book contains lots more than frogs, though, and you can browse more flora and fauna (including some Big Birds!) here. And if you'd like to read his monumental work in its entirety, you can do so here (Volume 1) and here (Volume 2).


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Before Catesby, There Was Catesby

Hello Jessica, Having raised my kids on Kermit and invested much of my retirement in Catesby, I really enjoyed this . Don't know if you've seen it, but the Catesby Commemorative Trust produced a successful public broadcasting documentary on MC called "The Curious Mister Catesby" which can now be seen on line at In addition, the University of Georgia Press will publish our new book on Catesby next April. You can see a video about it at A complete description is at Best wishes Dave Elliott Executive Director Catesby Commemorative Trust 41 Wappoo Creek Place Charleston SC 29412

Catesby and Environmental History

As someone who writes about Catesby and researches his life and work, I am so delighted with this wonderful sample of amphibians and plants. Catesby deserves to be better known as an explorer and environmental scientist - as well as an incomparable artist. His travels along the southern coast of the US are also under -represented as it is entirely possible that he is responsible for the discovery of what became to colony of Georgia. Bravo for putting these drawings out and advertising his work.

First edition is online, too!

Always delighted to see Mr. Catesby's work and book recognized. Your readers might like to know that the 1754 work you link to (the links are switched between vol.1 and 2) is the second edition with some textual errors, and the first edition (1729-1747) is available online at the Biodiversity Heritage Library . Thanks! and best wishes.

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