200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 12: “Past Meets Present ”

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photo of Audubon page turning
Turning the page of Audubon's The Birds of America

Past Meets Present

Academy member John James Audubon’s work, The Birds of America, is featured every weekday at the Academy! The Birds of America consists of 435 individual hand-colored illustrations, which were released in sets of five between 1827 and 1838. The Academy was one of the original subscribers, and we paid the hefty sum of $1,000 for the complete set. We then bound the separate plates into five volumes, which are kept here in the Library.

Our set is among approximately 120 complete sets in existence today. This extra-large version is called the “double elephant folio.” It takes its name from the size of the paper, which was the largest available at the time. This format allowed Audubon to show the birds as close to life-size as possible, and it allows you to take a closer look at the beautifully rendered birds when you visit the museum.

Every weekday at 3:15 pm, we turn the page to reveal a new bird. This activity helps conserve the illustrations—and it’s fun to watch. Join us once, twice, or as many times as you like to take part in this exciting daily ritual.

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