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The Plates of Birds of America, Audubon’s Masterpiece Are Now Yours

The Audubon Society has just brought very high-resolution plates from this masterwork online. The detail is amazing.

Example: American Flamingo | John James Audubon’s Birds of America looks like this:

But the downloaded image gives you detail like this:

Along with Audubon’s own notes:

On the 7th of May, 1832, while sailing from Indian Key, one of the numerous islets that skirt the south-eastern coast of the Peninsula of Florida, I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. It was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the country, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun, now far advanced toward the horizon, still shone with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quiet beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed flakes of snow margined with gold. Our bark was propelled almost as if by magic, for scarcely was a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in “Indian line,” with well-spread wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast!

John James Audubon’s Birds of America | Audubon

John James Audubon’s Birds of America is a portal into the natural world. Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-size watercolors of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration. Nearly 200 years later, the Audubon prints are coming to life once again, thanks to our vibrant digital library. Roam around below and enjoy one of the most treasured pieces of Audubon’s grand and wild legacy. Each print is also available as a free high-resolution download.

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  • ghostsniper October 23, 2019, 11:36 AM

    John J Audubon sparked a light in me, at about the age of 8, that would last all of my life. That light was frequently an inferno. In about 4th grade the teacher gave me a book to peruse so that I would stay in my seat. That book was small, filled with pictures and words about birds and it was made by John J. I inhaled that book and swooned over the colorful pictures and started replicating them on my own. If a writing device and acceptable surface were available I was drawing birds. Everywhere, all the time. Soon, my best friends John Maurice and John Morris would take interest and we all drew birds all the time. This phase lasted a year or 2 then we moved on to other things to draw.

    Things like dragsters! Yeah! Multi engine slingshot rails with blowers and open headers. We drew them with 1 engine, and lots of engines. Another friend, Larry Warner, set out to draw a dragster with the most engines. Taping notebook paper together he got up to about 32 engines, over a several day period, then lost interest. All the others lost interest too. Not me. I wasn’t even started yet. I still drew birds, and other animals, and cars, and planes, and other stuff, but it would be a few more years before I met my real calling in the drawing world.

    Architecture! I liked the word. Saying it tickles the tongue, and it looks pretty cool too. My dad first told me about architecture. He ran his own home building business and always had blueprints laying around. When I was 10 he made a small drawing table for me complete with a T-square he made from a strip of maple wood and an angle-cut piece of colonial baseboard. Every time my mother went to the store she had to buy another pack of paper for me. I drew on both sides. In 7th grade I took a class named Mechanical Drawing and things started happening. I couldn’t get enough. I started paying close attention to detail and being as precise as possible. The following year I took a class on Drafting and continued throughout junior and senior high. I always completed all drawing projects faster than anyone else, always got A+ on all but 1 drawing (in 10th grade I was bored and did an entire drawing project in reverse. All of it, including all of the verbage, was a mirror image of itself. The instructor was not amused and gave me the only F I had ever received), always did lots of extra credit drawings, and spent a lot of time helping other students.

    While attending high school I also did 2 years at a community college, graduating from both in Jan 1972 at age 16, then got my first job with the largest construction company in the area designing buildings! Finally, I was earning money doing something I would do for free! 33 jobs came and went before I started my own architecture business in 1986, that I continue to do today. At this very moment I am working on a large scale custom home, 4 stories tall, with a living area of more than 5,000 square feet that will probably cost about $1.5mil to build and about $400k to furnish, on Useppa Island, Florida. I will make good money on this project but if I was independently wealthy I would design it for free. See, I have no choice in the matter. John James Audubon kidnapped my brain when I was very young and I never fully recovered. My wife has been instructed that when I am cremated I am to have a pencil in my hand.

  • rabbit tobacco October 23, 2019, 2:24 PM

    God is in the details

  • Joe Krill October 23, 2019, 8:27 PM

    Thank you for this article.

  • MHF October 24, 2019, 2:06 PM

    It’s a shame the audubon society is using it for climate change crap