Two hundred years ago in the summer of 1821, John James Audubon arrived in what is now St. Francisville, Louisiana, to work as a teacher for young Eliza Pirrie at the Oakley Plantation. During his four months at Oakley Audubon drew and painted more than thirty of the artworks that became the Birds of America. This time was crucial to the maturation of his vision for his finest work, as well as for his family’s wellbeing.
Dr. John Miles, Curator of Books at LSU Libraries Special Collections, says, “One of LSU’s greatest treasures is its complete, original bound edition of Audubon’s Birds of America. Purchased almost sixty years ago with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation, these volumes recognize the University’s commitment not only to Audubon’s art
but also to his unparalleled scientific achievement, as well as a commitment to stewardship of the environment with which Audubon would no doubt sympathize, even if he might not have recognized it during his lifetime. More than simply a prized possession, LSU’s copy of Birds of America is emblematic of the transformative nature of human achievement.”
In 2008, in celebration of the publication of Danny Heitman’s A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House (LSU Press), LSU Libraries Special Collections presented the exhibition Audubon at Oakley featuring drawings, manuscripts, proofs, and prints by John James Audubon, curated by Elaine Smyth, Head of Special Collections. The digital exhibition presented here includes those items remastered in digital form, alongside excerpts from Ornithological Biography, and text from the later octavo edition of Birds of America. While a sorry substitute for viewing Audubon’s work in person, this digital exhibition allows you to take Birds of America outside on your mobile device, allowing you to view in nature that which was “drawn from nature.”
Please visit the digital exhibition here: