John Abbot was one of the best natural history artists working in North America during the pre-Audubon era. He was born in Turnham Green, west London, in 1751, but emigrated to America in 1773, arriving in Virginia, before settling in Georgia in 1775.
There he spent much of his life studying and completing a large series of drawings of local birds and insects. The majority of his drawings, like many artist (he completed more than 5000 watercolors) remained unpublished during his lifetime. His reputation languished until 1896, when his ornithological works were re-discovered. The quality and range of Abbot's work places him on a parallel level to Catesby, Wilson, and Audubon, and he recorded the fauna of Georgia more thoroughly and at an earlier date than any other region of America.
Abbot’s work was edited by Sir James Smith, botanist, co-founder and first president of the Linnaean Society in London. John Abbot was involved in the study of natural history before he left England and is known to have kept in touch with scientific friends in London. It is unknown who contacted whom with the suggestion for the present publication, but the introduction between Smith and Abbot was probably arranged by a mutual London friend. The Linnaean Society have notes from Abbot to Smith with suggestions about the form the work. Writing in the preface, Smith notes that “The materials of the following work have been collected on the spot
by a faithful observer, Mr. John Abbot, many years resident in Georgia, who, after having previously studied the metamorphoses of English insects, pursued his inquiries among those of Georgia and the neighboring parts of North America. The result of observations he has delineated in a style of beauty and accuracy which can scarcely be excelled, and has accompanied his figures with an account, as well as representation, of the plants on which each insect chiefly feeds, together with many circumstances of its manners, times of the different metamorphoses, and other interesting particulars.”
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