DescriptionJohn J. Audubon Autograph Letter Signed. Two and one-quarter pages, 16.25" x 13" (sight), March 23, 1833, Boston, to his firstborn son, Victor, "Care of/ Robt. Havell Esq/ Engraver/ 77 Oxford Street London." In this letter, written only seven days after suffering a stroke, Audubon excitedly informs Victor of new American subscriptions for his masterpiece, The Birds of America. Twenty-four-years-old, Victor, had sailed for London in October 1832 to manage his father's business and supervise Robert Havell, Jr., Audubon's engraver. The letter reads in part: "Although I have written two letters to you not to more than 4 days ago, I do this again with great pleasure on account of the good tidings I have to participate to you. The Legislature of this State has passed an act for the subscription of one copy of our work. I have delivered the 1st Volume to Mr. A. H. Everthy[?], the secretary of the Library of the State. The next Volume must be delivered 1/2 bound as those which Havell sent to Wm. Gaston of Savanna. Wm. Sturges Esq. of Boston has also subscribed this day. I have delivered him a Volume also 1/2 bound. The next must reach him in Like cover.
Wm. Oakes of Ipswich [Massachusetts] wishes his Copies delivered altogether in Number, uncut sheets put into a good Portfolio and I desire that you my Dear Victor will find him first rate coloured plates. he knows what Birds are full well.
The Harvard Colege [sic] has a Volume delivered. The Society of Natural History of Boston has also one Delivered. James Brown has received his Volume also. The 2nd must be just 1/2 Bound as usual after which he will receive the work in Numbers.
James Arnold of New Bedford has a copy sent him - he wishes the numbers published beside the first Vol. sent him if possible through Capn. Delano of the New York & London Packet Columbia.
Doctor Shattuck would wait no longer for the Brigg Charlotte and has taken a Volume 1/2 Bound. Stand the next Volume when finished in the same Bound Style.
Then the seven Copies from Savanna have been dispased [sic] off. here is an a/c of the matter.
Doct. Shattuck. 1 Volume [?]; paid $220.00
Harvard University D D D 220.00
Natural History Society Boston D 220.00
Wm. Sturges Esq. Bostom D 220.00
James Brown, Bookseller Boston D 220.00
State of Massach. Library
James Arnold New Bedford
Those I lost will be paid for shortly. Doctor Harlan has remitted on a/c this day $150.00. Our list of subscribers has then been suddenly increased with 6 names and it stands as follows."
Audubon then continues with the names of thirteen subscribers in Boston (including "State of Massachusetts . . . Harvard University . . . N. Society") along with four others from Salem and Ipswich.
The letter continues, "13 for Boston. & 4 [?] above makes 17 in all. Pretty well don't you think? I have left Neal of Portland unsupplied because we wanted the 'ready'. I will supply him from New York, or Write to you to do so should I be so fortunate as to dispose of the 10 copies that are there. In my last I said that the work entered free of Duty. Therefore all goes on [?]. We have all dined at Doct. Parkman this day he is 'a friend indeed'. Do write to him a good Long letter. It will please and gratify him much I am sure and now adieu My Dear Victor. Keep good spirits. God Bless You."
Doctor George Parkman, Audubon's "friend indeed", was called to attend the ornithologist following his stroke (purgatives were prescribed). Audubon quickly recovered from the mild stroke, and, as this letter show, was back promoting his work. His dedication paid off; by the end of April 1833, Audubon had fifty-five subscriptions throughout the U.S. for Birds of American, including those listed here.
John James Audubon (1785-1851), the Haitian-born Frenchman who spent most of his life in the United States, is, without question, the greatest and most influential painter of birds in the history of ornithological illustration. The Birds of America took twelve years (1827-1838) of meticulous work to complete. The 435 hand-colored aquatint engravings, masterfully rendered by Robert Havell, depicted North American birds in their full life-size glory. Though this letter has not been examined outside of the handsome frame, it exhibits professional restoration along some minor separations. The frame is glassed for viewing on both sides with an overall size of 21.25" x 18". All around, Audubon's letter is in fine condition.
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