John Drayton was the only North American subscriber to George Edwards’ first volume of work titled A Natural History of Uncommon Birds (1743). John Drayton’s portfolio of 48 watercolors are the oldest of their type to survive in North America. Twenty one of the original works now comprise The Lenhardt Collection of George Edwards Watercolors at Drayton Hall.
The final rendering in the portfolio is that of a blue jay, a native of North America that is easily identified by its vibrant blue plumage and distinctive pronounced crest. Edwards illustrated and described the blue jay as plate 239 in his Gleanings of Natural History (London, 1758). The specimen that Edwards used for his drawing came from “Carolina” and belonged to Mr. Elliot, a merchants at the Old South- Sea House in London. Edwards noted that Catesby had also illustrated and discussed the blue jay in his The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, 1731-1743) as plate 15, but points out that he feels the bird was much more beautiful in reality than Catesby had described it.