04 March 2008

Complete Set of Audubon Bird Plates Available Online

[Detail of Carolina Parakeet drawing by Audubon] By James Ed. Ducey

The University of Pittsburgh Darlington Library has digitized the complete set of 435 illustrations for the Birds of America drawn more than 150 years ago by John James Audubon.

Each image is listed in the order of the plate number as presented in the five volumes of Audubon's monumental work. Text for the illustrated species, as given in "Ornithological Biograpies," were scanned and are also available. Browse buttons allow easy scanning of the next and previous pages, with a search option also provided.

An interactive window provides a set of options than can be used to zoom in on a particular portion of an image or to pan to a certain section.

"The University of Pittsburgh is fortunate to own one of the rare, complete sets of John James Audubon’s Birds of America," according to the web page for the project. "It is considered to be the single most valuable set of volumes in the collections of the University Library System. Indeed, only 120 complete sets are known to exist."

Audubon was a pioneer in North American ornithology, with many illustrations done very soon after the taking of live specimens. Travels that provided opportunities to watch wild birds included time at New Orleans, to Labrador in 1833, and to the upper Missouri River in the summer of 1843.

The images and text were posted in early March. The family of lawyer William McCullough Darlington, in 1918, donated the volumes used to create the website content.

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