John James Audubon and the Birds of America

John James Audubon

Today, the name John James Audubon is automatically linked with the study of birds. Even so, few realize just what an important contribution he made in his Birds of America, published by subscription from 1827 to 1838. Audubon was preceded by Alexander Wilson, a Scotsman who published volumes by subscription in which he mostly described through words the American birds he'd studied. Audubon wanted people to be able to view the birds as they appeared in their natural habitat. To do this, he worked first with engraver William Home Lizars and later with Robert Havell to publish his works on the largest paper found at the time. These double elephant folios allowed most of the species he drew to be printed life- sized, something not done before.

The Peabody Institute Library is only one of 134 repositories which own John James Audubon's historic work, The Birds of America. Donated by Eliza Sutton in 1871, these volumes have been an important part of the library's collection for over 130 years. At present, the prints have been removed from their volumes for the purpose of restoration. So far, one hundred ten of the four hundred thirty-two prints we own have been restored and are available for public viewing in the Sutton Room.

Please visit our Audubon Prints webpage to view some of these great works.

To see a more you can visit the Boston Public Library collection, which is on the Digital Commonwealth website where you can search the prints.