LSU Libraries Hosts Viewing of Audubon’s Birds of America

April 15th, 2011 by Elaine Smyth

The LSU Libraries will host a viewing of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838). The viewing will be held in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, on Saturday, May 14, from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m.

A renowned masterpiece of natural history art, the Birds of America records the rich bird and plant life Audubon saw and drew first-hand when he lived in Louisiana in the 1820s. The edition is known as the “elephant” folio because of its large size, with each of its 435 pages measuring 39 by 27 inches. Publication took eleven years, from 1827 to 1838. LSU’s copy of the Birds was purchased with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation in 1964, and it has been shown in various venues over the years.

In 2007, it was determined that LSU’s copy could no longer be shown safely due to structural damage to the bindings caused by their large size and other problems with individual plates. In 2008, the Coypu Foundation made a donation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this work by Etherington Conservation Services. Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. The final volume returned to the library on December 28, 2009. Thanks to the Coypu Foundation, one of the Libraries’ greatest treasures is now restored to fine condition and can again be displayed.

During the May 14 showing, copies of Danny Heitman’s book, A Summer of Birds, will be available for purchase, as will DVDs of the LPB documentary based on the book. From 10 to 11:30, Heitman will be on hand to sign copies of the book, which focuses on Audubon’s summer at Oakley House and features reproductions of original Audubon plates held by the LSU Libraries.

Audubon Day events are free and the public is invited, but reservations are required. Viewings of the folio volumes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, and 1 p.m. Only 40 people can be admitted for each showing.

To request a reservation, visit the Libraries’ Special Collections website at http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/audubon or call 225-578-6544 during business hours.

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