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Audubon & the Double Elephant Folio

  • YALE PEABODY MUSEUM 170 Whitney Avenue New Haven, CT, 06511 United States (map)
The original edition of Birds of America, also known as the Double Elephant Folio because of its size, was printed on handmade paper with each volume measuring an impressive 40 by 27 inches. 
The 435 illustrated plates in Birds of America—lifesize illustrations of 1,055 birds—were engraved and hand-colored. Published by subscription between 1827 and 1838, 135 of the 175 to 200 complete sets of plates still exist today. Audubon’s bird portraits are not only beautiful but also extremely detailed and scientifically accurate. 

Several original copper plates from the Peabody’s ornithology collection will be on display as well, providing a glimpse into the folio’s printing techniques. 

John James Audubon (1785-1851) was a pre-eminent American artist and ornithologist renowned for his ability to merge art and science, and for his uneasiness about the destruction of nature. Born in what is now Haiti, he moved to the United States in 1803. When other careers didn’t materialize, he set out to study and illustrate American birds. For more than 10 years he drew and painted American birds, chiefly from life, ultimately portraying all species then known in the United States. artdaily