timeline

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole
from The Birds of America
by John James Audubon

John James Audubon

1785-1851

Romantic and flamboyant, talented and intelligent, John James Audubon left an indelible mark on the history of American ornithology. His magnificent Birds of America (1827-1838) presented 435 plates of life size birds, engraved on copper and hand-colored. For the first time, a bird artist worked from fresh-killed specimens collected in the field and then conveyed the essence of life in his portraits. Audubon placed his colorful birds in spectacular, but correct, natural settings.

Audubon's controversial personality and mysterious origins gave rise to many conflicting stories about his life and work. All of these fade to insignificance before the sheer splendor of his accomplishments.

Cornell University Library is fortunate to have one of the surviving complete sets of the four-volume "double-elephant" folio of The Birds of America. This set is particularly interesting, for it is one of fifteen copies commissioned by Audubon to be bound in London according to his own specifications.

prev  continue tour  next