The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Art and Science of William Bartram

The Art and Science of William Bartram

Judith Magee
  • Copyright: 2007
  • Dimensions: 9 x 12
  • Page Count: 276 pages
  • Illustrations: 110 color illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02914-6
  • Co-publisher: The Natural History Museum, London

Winner of a 2008 AAUP Book Jacket and Journal Show for Trade Illustrated

“This well-written, accessible, and scholarly book does a splendid job situating William Bartram in the larger context of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and the rhetoric of European and American natural history.”
“More slithering lowlife can be found in Judith Magee’s luminous The Art and Science of William Bartram. Long before Audubon, Bartram wandered through Cherokee outposts and Florida river basins, circa 1776, filling his notebooks with quasi-surrealist renderings of bobolinks and frolicking alligators. Bartram’s pictures are beautifully reproduced in Magee’s volume, and she makes a good case for his scientific expertise. It’s easy to see why Bartram’s idiosyncratic work stoked the feverish fantasies of Coleridge and Wordsworth.”
“Particularly valuable is the publication, in color, for the first time of all 68 drawings by Bartram held by the Natural History Museum in London as well as natural history illustrations made by Bartram’s contemporaries.”
“Using the best sources and nicely placing Bartram in the context of contemporary scientific thought, Magee provides keen insights into Bartram’s life and contributions. Her work advances our understanding of the role of this important figure in the maturation of natural history studies in America and makes clear the continuing significance of his writings and drawings.”
“Judith Magee, in her handsome book, The Art and Science of William Bartram, gives a delightful overview of Bartram and his contributions to the natural history of his time, especially in his pioneering drawings and watercolors, in which he portrayed behavior, habitat, and the relationships among individual species.”

William Bartram's love of nature led him to explore the environs of the American Southeast between 1773 and 1777. Here he collected plants and seeds, kept a journal of his observations of nature, and made drawings of the plants and animals he encountered. The completed drawings were sent to his patron in London, and these make up the bulk of the collection held at London's Natural History Museum.

The Art and Science of William Bartram brings together, for the first time, all sixty-eight drawings by Bartram held at the Natural History Museum, along with works by some of the most well-known natural history artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The volume explores Bartram's writings and artwork and reveals how influential he was in American science of the period. Bartram was an inspiration to a whole generation of young scientists and field naturalists. He was an authority on the birds of North America and on the lifestyle, culture, and language of the indigenous people of the regions through which he traveled. His work influenced Wordsworth, Coleridge, and other writers and poets throughout the past two hundred years, and his drawings reveal an ecological understanding of nature that only truly developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Judith Magee is Collections Development Manager in the Library of the Natural History Museum, London. She has acted as picture researcher for several publications and has contributed to Plant Discoveries: A Botanist's Voyage Through Plant Exploration (2003) and Great Naturalists (forthcoming).




Prologue: Explorer, Naturalist, and Artist

Part I: Formation

1. Plant Hunting and the Seed Trade

2. The Merchant’s Apprentice

3. Cape Fear and Competition

Part II: Experience

4. Travels in Florida with the King’s Botanist

5. Finding a Patron

Part III: Independence

6. Travels: Revisiting Old Haunts and Discovering New Ones

7. Encounters and Observations

8. The Arcadian Dream

9. Describing, Classifying, and Naming

Part IV: Influence

10. American Science Comes of Age: Ornithology

11. American Science Comes of Age: Entomology

12. Following in Bartram’s Footsteps

Epilogue: Contentment and Serenity

List of Drawings

Glossary of Names



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This book is a part of the Association of American University Presses' Books for Understanding: Writing of Place book list, created to help all of us better understand the world we live in.

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