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'Roseate Spoonbill' from Birds of America (1827) by John James Audubon. Original from University of Pittsburg.
The Birds of America is a book by naturalist and painter John James Audubon, containing illustrations of a wide variety of birds of the United States. It was first published as a series in sections between 1827 and 1838, in Edinburgh and London. Not all of the specimens illustrated in the work were collected by Audubon himself; some were sent to him by John Kirk Townsend, who had collected them on Nathaniel Jarvis Wyeth's 1834 expedition with Thomas Nuttall.
The work consists of 435 hand-coloured, life-size prints, made from engraved plates, measuring around 39 by 26 inches (99 by 66 cm). It includes images of five, possibly six, now-extinct birds: Carolina parakeet, passenger pigeon, Labrador duck, great auk, pinnated grouse, and, possibly, the Eskimo curlew. Art historians describe Audubon's work as being of high quality and printed with "artistic finesse". The plant life backgrounds of some 50 of the bird studies were painted by Audubon's assistant Joseph Mason, but he is not credited for his work in the book. He shot many specimen birds as well as transporting and maintaining supplies for Audubon. Audubon however used the background plants and insects painted by Maria Martin, later wife of John Bachman, with credit. George Lehman was hired to draw some of the perches and background detail. Audubon also authored the companion book Ornithological Biographies.