Saturday, June 2, 2018

America's Birds: The Early Years

Image result for audubon birds

Environmental & Science Education
Art and Environment
History of Science
Edward Hessler

I spent nearly the whole of Saturday in Newark, where my book attracted as many starers as a bear or a mammoth would have done.-- Alexander Wilson, Letter to a Friend, October 10, 1818

"Before Audubon: Alexander Wilson's Birds of the United States" an exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art calls attention to the nine-volume, now classic "American Ornithology; or The Natural History of the Birds of the United States"(1801-1814). The exhibition opened on April 21 2018 and closes July 15 2018.

The website notes that "In 1808, Scottish-born poet and amateur naturalist Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) began publishing American Ornithology: or The Natural History of the Birds of the United States.  Wilson's impressive achievement inspired John James Audubon to publish his much better-known Birds of America (1827-1838). Though Wilson had not backgroung as an artist, he taught himself drawing and illustrated his nine volumes of careful observations of the birds of the northeastern U. S. with 76 hand-colored and engraved and etched  plates of 314 species--26 of which he was the first to describe."

Some of the illustrations on exhibition may be viewed here.

Wilson has five North American birds named after him: Wilson's Warbler, Wilson's Snipe, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Wilson's Phalarope, and Wilson's Plover.

h/t: Edward Rothstein, "Ornithology Takes Flight," Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2018

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