Mark Catesby (England, ca. 1682–1749)
Sassafras and the Tyrant,
London, EnglandEngraving with hand coloring
Lent by the Chipstone Foundation, 1952.33


Europeans were keenly interested in both the aesthetic and the economic merits of American flora and fauna. Mark Catesby’s carefully rendered composition of the Sassafras and the Tyrant depicts an Eastern kingbird perched on a branch poised to capture its prey. In the accompanying text, Catesby highlights the medicinal properties of the sassafras plant, which had already been transplanted in London and had “withstood the cold of several winters.”