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, April 25 from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. This event is free and open to all, but a reservation is required.
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. These books are part of the E.A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection at Hill Memorial Library, one of the most prestigious collections of its kind, with particular strengths in New World botanical and ornithological illustration.
The Birds of America double elephant folio was restored in 2008 through a generous donation by the Coypu Foundation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this important work. Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. These volumes are considered to be one of the most valuable of all rare books, with complete sets selling for $12,000,000. LSU Libraries’ copy belonged to one of the original subscribers, the Duke of Northumberland (1785-1847).
It is with pleasure that the Hill Memorial Library shares these remarkable volumes with the community. Members of the staff turn pages of the books and share anecdotes and information about the books, the collections, and of course, about these wonderful birds. Audubon Day events are free and the public is welcome, but reservations are required and space is limited. 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. Parking is readily accessible in the Indian Mounds lot, directly behind Hill Memorial Library. In addition to the viewings, there will be additional lagniappes to share, including two exhibitions at Hill Memorial Library and more. This is a unique, fun, and memorable opportunity for people of all ages.
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.