Overstreet, Leslie K. Curator of Natural-History Rare Books

Natural-history books 1450-1850; bibliographical analysis; history of printing; book production in the hand-press period; book illustration technologies (wood-cut, engraving, lithography) 1450-1850; English naturalist Mark Catesby (1683-1749).

Public Biography

  • Leslie K. Overstreet joined the Smithsonian Libraries (SIL) in 1980.  Initially staffing the anthropology and vertebrate zoology libraries in the National Museum of Natural History, she has worked in SIL’s Special Collections Department since 1988.  As the Curator of Natural-History Rare Books, she has headed SIL’s Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History since it opened in 2002.

    Her work includes assisting readers, answering reference questions, and giving tours of the collection; she oversees the selection of rare books for digitizing in the Biodiversity Heritage Library (www.biodiversitylibrary.org) and for exhibition.  In addition, Leslie works with SIL’s conservators to preserve the books and selects and describes individual works for the Adopt-a-Book program.  Perhaps most importantly, she works with the scientists and historians whose research SIL supports, and with antiquarian booksellers around the world, to build and strengthen the rare-book collection.

    Her own research has focused for many years on Mark Catesby’s Natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London, 1731-1743).  She served as a consultant to the documentary film “The curious Mr. Catesby,” produced by the Catesby Commemorative Trust and broadcast on public-television stations across the U.S. in 2009, and presented the results of her research on the printing history of Catesby’s book at the 2012 Catesby Tercentennial Conference, which was subsequently published as a chapter in The curious Mister Catesby (University of Georgia Press, 2015).