Bittern Sightings

November 4th, 2015

Inspired by Carrie Roy’s piece entitled “Bittern 70,” part of an art installation currently on view in the first floor lobby of Memorial Library, we took a closer look at the variety of bitterns illustrated in volume 1 of Mark Catesby (1683-1749), The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants, 2 vols. (London: Printed for Charles Marsh … Thomas Wilcox … and Benjamin Stichall … , 1754), call number: flat Thordarson T 505-506.

The brown bittern, from Catesby (1754).

The brown bittern, from Catesby (1754).

The crested bittern, also from Catesby.

The crested bittern, also from Catesby.

The small bittern, likewise from Catesby.

The small bittern, likewise from Catesby.

A hand-colored edition of Catesby’s work is available for you to explore in Special Collections; a digital version, source of the digital images above, is also available in the UW Digital Collections as part of the Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture:

Title page of Mark Catesby, The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants (1754). From the Thordarson Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Title page of Mark Catesby, The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects, and plants (1754). From the Thordarson Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

See more about bitterns in Catesby’s work:

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Carrie Roy’s “Bittern 70” and “Blue Jay 10” are part of a larger undertaking entitled “Words Count: A Rantum Scoot through DARE” — see http://darewordscount.com/ and the exhibit on the first floor of Memorial Library for more examples of this project. DARE itself is the renowned Dictionary of American Regional English, worthy of your attention (and, dare we add, your support).