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John James Audubon: American Woodsman, Part 2

2012-06-25 | 🔗

After John James Audubon finished his book, he sought out a publisher. While his image turned off Philadelphia's intellectuals, he charmed Great Britain. In this episode, curator Michael Inman joins us to explain the publication of Birds of America.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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ships captain in his mistress in what is now Haiti ripe for the haitian Revolution and after making it through the french revolution as well. John James was finally moved by his Father to Pennsylvania in order to avoid concern option in Napoleon's army and its at that point that Audubon really became kind of an early american renaissance man, someone who is equally dancing, Francine, undressing and fine clothes lying. Brush four hours watching and sketching birds or studying up on ornithology in the natural world, but it wasn't until eighteen, nineteen after he had lost his business and the panic that Audubon began, focusing in earnest on a monumental project in that was illustrating. All of the birds in all of America will include, portions of an interview, as we mentioned before, with Michael and then in this episode, he's curator of the rear books, division than Europe, public Library who,
commission to being a big Audubon Duff himself. Shared lots of interesting information with us about the book fell by in twenty four hour, where we left off after years as sketching birds and travelling around the country. Looking for new species, John Jay upon which finally ready to find a publisher, and so his wife and two thirds had set up their home base near New Orleans, where the boys could be educated and loosely could teach deportment and piano to the children of wealthy planters. Thereabout Audubon decided that Philadelphia, which was still at that time, the intellectual and cultural capital of the United States would be the best place for him to drum up. Interest in this project of her important to remember that as beautiful as autobahns drawing still are today, they must have seemed completely novel and breathtaking at the time, maybe even shocking to some people when and presented his portfolio to Charles with Cn Bonaparte, who is a member
Academy of Natural Sciences and Napoleon's nephew, but part. Wishes blown away by them He started parading Audubon around town to meet artists and scientists and Audubon had this kind of get brash way about him. He'd really cultivated them frontiersmen image that we talked about in the first part of this podcast. So he probably Prize alot of people that he met, but Big mistake was starting to criticise american ornithology and specifically the late Alexander Wilson and his works, who Michael Invention Wilson a little bit in the last podcast edge according to William Fodder in american history wealth. Earlier, incomplete attempt to illustrate the birds american- and this was something he had tried before. Audubon was trying his attempt at doing. That was something that the folks in Philadelphia were really very
proud of, and they considered well send to be the Father of American Ornithology and they considered his book as one of America's first great scientific work plus a really nice book, though here comes backwards, Audubon out of nowhere criticising Wilson, talking about mistakes and welcomes drawings and even accusing him of kind of a type of bird hunting plagiarism. He said that when they met back in Kentucky, he helped wealth and bag. A type of warbler that he was searching for in didn't get any credit for that. So, instead of finding a publisher in Philadelphia with all of this talk, Audubon found himself shut out, shut out of society, Michael and men actually described it to us with him being quote roundly snubbed, but it became clear to him that Europe was gonna be the better placed to go. There would be fewer wealth, interference there, so he was less likely to offend people. There would be more people with deep book buying pocket and most import
wait there wouldn't be real life, north american birds, to just look out in your backyard. So you might be more inclined to buy this very expensive work. He was planning. so out of on set off for Liverpool in eighteen, twenty six with letters of introduction and has portfolio in tow according to Richard Roads and Sonya magazine. One of these letters of introduction was to Lucy Sister Anne who'd, married an Englishman He was so rugged. Looking though he knocked at the door, and he was actually asked not to call again. This whole matter seemed like a pretty on promise. Things if your own sister in law turns you away, but then actually wasn't the case. Even though his enlargement receive him with open arms autobahns, no one in law connections prove to be a lot more promising than those things Qualities that meet him unpopular in Philadelphia and made him a huge hit in great Britain and Michael told Us a bit more about autobahns reception abroad. Almost immediate
He became for the toast of english society that sees, and he was served celebrated as this Rugged american woodsman any did a great deal to try to perpetuate that serve romantic in it. his hair was long and flowing he sort of look something probably like Daniel Boon to them and, in fact, English, that time are very enamoured of that romantic ideal of Daniel or of sorts of images that will come out of a novel of James Fenimore Cooper, for example, that sort of frontiersmen image, and so he, it upon them and traded upon it, and he sat upon or set about knowing his images, his drawings and sketches to the leading mines. one at that time and was embraced. He they were again. They were shocked because with, unlike anything, they had seen. It He didn't encounter that sort of snobbishness. I think that he had encountered in in Philadelphia
and throughout the United States and probably had something to do with the United States, then being still fairly new country and perhaps also the insecure about its place in the world. and in England they were, of course farmer around a very long time, and so they were perhaps will be more receptive to you, ideas are ways of depicting the world with a century or professional. For you experience bona clean means. One big spill is no big deal so when looking for the best to care for Harwood floors, use bona hardwood floor, cleaner, the residue free fast crying formula is specially designed to clean hardwood floor as by gently and effectively removing dirt dust and grime to reveal the forest, natural shine and beauty water basins. Genes and Green gargled certification ensure a safe product for your family. Your paths that our planet for the most part, clean use. The bona hardwood floor cleaner with bonus premium micro, fibre, mop and micro fibre, cleaning pad designed exclusively
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clean use. The bona hardwood floor cleaner with bonus premium micro, fibre, mop and micro fibre, cleaning pad designed exclusively work together as a system bona hardwood for cleaner is available at most retailers, where floor cleaning products are sold on Amazon and at bona dot com. Also, for your other hard surface floors like stone, tile, laminate, vinyl, an elevator ye for cleaning tips and exclusive offers visit bone, dot com, slash bona clean. So with that Daniel Blue last of the mohican kind of persona to recommend him uncharted renting out halls for art shows started by thing up his lectures by providing entertainment himself. He talk about what Seen in his travels to to draw
birds he lecturer in his buckskin costume with his hair, Greece back with bare fat and he's talk about frontier life. He would even imitate birds. He would imitate war calls. He must Ben wait a one man show for for these audiences yeah guess these audiences had sort of romanticize this version of America that he was representing to them that an end bra. He also connected with Engraver William Losers, who by having several other large projects under way agreed to take on this really massive task of printing birds of America, and this would include it would be, an ongoing processes they planted with Audubon painting and adding new birds and losers, engraving them Michael told us how the tsars would have gone about engraving, the first few drawings and how the book was planned to be released bit by bit. Here's what he had to say the basic process of completing the the engravings
that the someone in the printing shop would trace using tracing paper, essentially which raise the what color, I'm getting the general outlines and then that that tracing paper would then be transferred to the copperplate, and that will be done by this way, taking the the transfer paper which had the lad image and it would be rubbed essentially onto the plate. The plate itself would have a wax ground across it, which would pick up enough of the the retraced image that then, someone could then take a beer and which is essentially like a needle and trace those lines on the copperplate scooping out that wax ground Only where the lines appear the plate is then put into an acid back
and depending on how long the plate is left in the acid doubt that will affect town how deeply the acid eats into the plate and the deeper the d. The acid eats into the wait the darker the line or the broader the line, so it allows achieve a darker image and also very the with the line, and if something that skilled labour or someone who is used to working with the medium of.
can do a very controlled manner, and that was something was hours or the people in his praying shot could do so. Audubon plan for printing birds of Amerika was fairly straightforward in the sense that it was done through subscription, which was not uncommon at that time. That was something of a common and the book trade, especially for larger works that promise to be published over a period of years and Audubon projected at the outset that it would take him about. Fourteen years to finally finnish printing birds of Amerika and his plan was that he would publish the work by subscription serially that there would be five numbers or hours or packets of images that would be issued per year with five individual plates per number. There would be one large full
eyes image, typically within those that collection. If I plates one medium sized image and in the last three plates would be smaller birds depicted so you have one very large stunning image, typically and then several smaller images within each packet, the price he estimated for each Number was about a hundred forty pounds which would come out to about in today's money about eleven thousand pounds for the complete printing run that was too projection or about fifty thousand dollars in eighteen, twenty seven money. That would be roughly, I believe, about nine hundred thousand dollars today's money. So it promised to be a very large undertaking, both from a financial standpoint and also from a printing standpoint as well Phyllis hours released about ten engravings before word got back to Audubon. That was always color had gone strike, though these were the people who would hand color
every single print, and this, of course threatened to draw out what was already gonna, be a lengthy printing process plus autobahn hadn't been a hundred percent satisfied with what he had seen the work he had seen from Lazard than he was worried to that Lazard of working on so many projects and wouldn't be able to dedicate himself fully one massive projects, so Michael told us a little bit about what happened after Audubon got this news. Here's what he had to say out of office very quickly that he needed to find another publisher for Birds of America and he just almost Mr Hannan ass. He had a letter of introduction to a man in London, one the leading printers and publishers and wonder a man named Robert Avail, and he went to see her bell and enquired about the possibility of Nobel taking the path. Jack over a hotel was again very much in favour of doing
because it was such a monumental undertaking. However, he said he, I so far Manstin age is put promising to take fourteen or so years to do said, what all agree to do with this I'll take over the project, all oversee the engraver psyched. I can't do it myself, but I'll find someone in Gray the images up to your standards and all ever see them and we can continue with the publishing of Birds of America here in London, so hovel set about finding and engraver for birds of Amerika any asked. Several colleagues and one of the colleagues said. Oh yes, I know a young man who can do a great job and brought a sample of this person's work and have else at Oda. Fantastic quality work. You know this is exactly what I'm looking for. He said who is this person? He said? Well, if you like the work, you, like the person, it's your son, Robert Hotel, Junior hub robber. Have L Junior and his father had done somewhat strange for a period of years and had really
in contact you much, but they were able to reconcile very quickly with the proper. that of taking on this monumental project Rubber have l, Junior came back into the fold begin working in her father shop and Audubon asked Lazard descend the first ten copperplate to rubber which they retouched and we and brought up to the current standard, and they began moving forward from that that point So this partnership with her veil in his son proved especially lucky for Audubon since have all was a master of something called awkward, tent and anger. mean technique that allowed for a tone gradation and a article side. What this man was, that the colorists hand colouring all of those prince didn't have to achieve shading with their paint. They could do flat wash, but it also meant abuse. Four and product, Michael who, of course swift, the book at that in your public library, said that awkward really adds depth and difference between
the first ten plates and the later ones and Differences really clear when you look at them side by side. Okay, so at this point the have elsewhere publishing the completed drawings and Audubon with heading to America every now and then to keep on, locating and keep on painting new birds to add to the collection. But he was also writing his ornithological biography, which was kind of an in depth to go with the printed book, though an of all. The species mentioned complete with tall tale and no fun how the birds tasted mention that in the last at the third and wilderness- stories to some of which she just completely made up, but one's work in Europe and american cities wasn't over either cause he's still had to constantly raised subscriptions and maintain the orders of his client. So there was a business side as well as the artistic side to it, subscription
who did offer some advantages for I'm, even though it required this constant maintenance. It did it provided a steady income stream for a project that ended up costing about nine hundred thousand dollars and modern currency so allowed Audubon to get around laws requiring donations of complete steps to british library and should have been a huge law right but subscriptions costing about one thousand and fifty dollars at the time for a complete, sat the very rich could afford these books Michael told us some of the subscribers included George, the fourth of England, Charles the tenth of France, whose subscription actually got interrupted when he was deposed british Museum, was another subscriber, the Library of Congress, Daniel Webster and John Jacob Astor according to bonds notes. They were eventually one hundred and sixty one subscribers, though interestingly, some through the entire run, as Michael explained to us here, there were there other a financial plan
Depression, one thousand eight hundred and thirty six, for example, and that most likely put a dent in the subscription when your force with deciding. If you want Hey for Europe, Europe, your land or your home, or a book about birds. Probably the book about birds is the first thing to so that with Canada, money and go to this whole groups in story, but you can imagine that with Audubon keeping subscribers interested and overseeing the printing and Kingbird still few, he didn't really have that much time to spend at home with his family in New Orleans, and especially during the first few years when he was really still getting the project off the ground and solely the toast of the town to doing those lectures in his buckskin than its during this time that he and his wife had misunderstanding. Miscommunication any you'd been abroad for about two years and he
getting lonely. He wrote to Lucy and asked her to join him in Europe, but somehow or another their letters got crossed in the mail and he came away with the impression that she would only leave Louisiana when he was finally Wretch well. She thought he just wasn't interested in her any more. He was famous now the toasted, the town likely FED and just didn't, want his wife hanging around so finally, according to roads, Lucy, basically row come home. We need talk. We need figure this out and Audubon started. This ethic trip home yeah he arrived in by his there in the middle of the night in November, eighteen, twenty nine and he later wrote about wandering through a saint Francis, fell looking for a horse to ride the fifteen miles to Lucy School. But he found the house's emptied by yellow fever. Finally, he got a horse and he rode through the night and got to Lucy School at six, a m that he found her all teaching, piano here's how he does
the scene I pronounced her name gently. She saw me and the next moment I held her in my arms. Her emotion was so great. I feared I had acted rashly but tears relieved, our hearts once more, we were together fill. This is why we think Autobahn story needs to be a movie. This grand romantic, thin and staying out of on basically didn't separate after that and as their sons grew up, they join the family business of producing varied from America, something that went on for a very long time, not quite as long as out of unexpected but finally completed publication in eighteen, thirty, nine. After twelve years, though, at this point audits, with fifty three years old friends of him, I had been his lifelong project and go, and men told us a little bit about what somebody like this gonna next and here's what he had to stay out of it I did not really Any money at all on the initial
publication of birds on the double elephant, folio volume, and in that term, referring simply to the size of the paper that was used, which was the largest commercially available sized paper that was available that time he made virtually no money on that, and so he immediately in eighteen, thirty nine as publication well into to cloves. He and looking for ways to recoup some of his investment and immediately began working on a smaller version of birds of Amerika. What was known as the royal on cargo version, which is a much smaller format book format, add he began printing or having that power. List within a matter of a few years. They began polishing this royal Oct hollow format and because never with smaller and also they used a different printing process instead of using
Etching engraving, an awkward tat they use lithography, which was much easier to a format meeting this much easier easier to work with they were able to polish it much more cheaply. and he made a good deal of money off of the royal October version. In fact enough that he was able to secure his financial future for pretty much the remainder of his life. It made a very large sums of money for him Hello bunnies: this is our marine. You may know me from Chelsea lately, shameless or as Regina Sinclair on insatiable. I want to tell you about my podcast: will you accept this rose, which is new to the eye heart radio podcast network on this, shall we recap every the bachelor franchise. Yes, that includes the bachelor the bachelor rat and most them certainly bachelor in Paradise. Each person we bring an amazing celebrity guest who are bachelor super fast to discuss. The show with us, including last bass,
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all the future. Listen a first contact with lorries evil. That's me on the imo, radio, app on apple pie, chasms or wherever you get your podcast. So the family ended at moving to the NICE House in New York and the ants Football Audubon are seemingly unstoppable, also started planning a work on the mammals of America, so he spent three years on that work that he was aging rapidly. His eyesight started to fail and he became senile and he finally died in eighteen. Fifty one his last lucid words were to invite, has visiting brother in law to go hunting with him, Lucy for many more years after that eventually running out of money, though, for she sold the water colours and then the copper plates to try to support herself according to Satyrs, Article Audubon had had these sent home after printing was completed, but the ship sank in the New York harbor that destroyed many of the place and the others were damaged and in eighteen, forty, five warehouse fire, the remaining
its Lucy sold were being melted down for scrap metal when the plant managers done realise what they were and save the ones that he could he be they just salvage. Whatever was laughed in two thousand to the audit State Park. Museum in Kentucky actually struck prints from one of them, so they still work, they still work and today, Germany, we gotta talk about the remaining copies of the book to those one thousand. Fifty dollar double elephant, copies of birds of America go for about eight million dollars, meaning that most of the one hundred and twenty known complete that are held by me. the arms and universities and libraries, and I guess we can assume a small number of very wealthy people that it really
funds from a physical standpoint, as well as the financial wine that these books are held in institutions, considering that they are very large books ones. That would be quite difficult to display in a private home, even a well appointed private home, I would say they measure thirty nine and a half inches by twenty nine and a half inches and Michael told us a little bit about what a book of that size is like in how you have to deal with it in her, for he had to say volume ways over sixty pounds, and I know this from experience that its very it's not a good idea to try to lift it by yourself. I did try that one time and spent the next week flat on my back in bed with her native disk
it's such a large bulky work and when weighing over sixty pounds is something that has to be lifted by two people and in fact it takes two people generally to turn the pages, because otherwise we run the risk of the page is beginning to terror rip down at the binding. If you, if you don't turn them in a very controlled care, manner. The books, though, or generally because of their size, are generally stored flat and most libraries then, as now, would generally store the books flat start. Storing them in an upright manner is put a lot of stress on the binding because its sown by is carrying a lot of weight. So you want to to relieve the binding of that sort of stress. You would store flat, so we started the series on Audubon by talking about the founding of the Audubon society by George Bird Grenelle. Grenelle did connection to Audubon, he had studied with Lucy in her widowhood, but to some folks the connection between a conservation society. Anything.
The bird hunter might seem surprising, so it's important to remember that well, Audubon noted and celebrated the seemingly endless bounty of birds in America. One of famous journal entries in fact ascribe seeing the sky black with passenger pigeon like an eclipse. He also noted later in his career, how things seemed less bountiful, how robbing nests of eggs was unsustainable when how mass shootings were happening in some of the birds he painted are now extinct, including passenger pigeon here and in our interview, Michael Edmund, suggested that it was audible, passion for birds than their habitat that made him the figure had. He is in the natural world and the PBS documentary we talked about on Audubon suggested that it was that early recognition of law that made him a conservation figure it realizing before many people dead. was really happening and how this just wasn't gonna last, but I can offer
how autobahns beautiful drawing served as a great example of what was worth saving and could have helped impress upon, say the Boston Blue blood too. We were mentioning in earlier episode who weren't gonna see eager it's in the air blades of live birds, would help in price upon them that the birds themselves were really more beautiful than than their feathers, and then the hats that were made from their fathers, especially since his paintings were so different. Then thing else that was around during his time. In some of the paintings of the birds, they really do seem to have personality like a kind of life to them value we had one last question of Michael and then that we wanted to ask out of the four hundred and thirty five waves in the one hundred eighty nine species and the one thousand and sixty five birds depicted in breach of America. We were to know which was favourite and is very difficult to pick out one. That is my absolute favouritism.
This leads turn the page and that one I'm looking has my my favorite. If I had to pick, though I would say a plate number, twenty six, which is the Carolina Parakeet, in part, because it is one of those birds that now extinct in and Autobahn, captured the bird and such a wonderful manner. There are multiple Carolina parakeets in the image, six or seven, at least, as I recall, and their depicted innocent, vibrant green. It was a bright, green parakeet and its is the stunning stunning image, it's so dynamic, you're, so much action taking place in that image and the birds are our are moving in certain cases there, looking directly at you, Eurylochus set that you're wandering through a thicket or sense or someplace a swamp in the Carolinas, and suddenly you move a tree branch and there they are just right in front of you. It's a really stunning images
very colorful and alive, and I think that overall, that would be my favorite. But I get it hard. Some of my other favorite ones are for lesser known species. Some of my favorite images our for birds that are some of the small, illustration. The Carolina parakeet is one of those images that the full page, but some of the one, are smaller images that are more delicate nature, though the summer my favourites to because the more you look at them, the more you see a spy better dangling on a web. That's almost imperceptible or you know the details of the foliage, the flowers in the background, there's there's so much to see in every time you look at Audubon to work. You see something new that you you'd never noticed before and, to my mind, that's why The great achievements in hallmarks of about birds of America, that you are always seeing something more on every time.
Look at it, so it's tough for my call to take his favorite burden. It was for us too. We actually didn't pick one, but we wanted to invite all of the listeners stood email lesson. Let us know it. Maybe your favorite bird and birds of America is and we'd like to know as well as it because you just like the bird or isn't exactly or because you actually appreciate the illustration and ends at that meeting change your opinion of it for some reason or another so right to us where at history Pied cast discovery, dot com were also on Facebook and were on twitter. It must in history- and we do have an article on the Ottawa in society, that society named for this famous illustrator. It's called how the autumn on society works, and you can find it a little bit more about the point hunting to in some of the crazy later history of the art of on society. The plume hunters took the mist.
pretty seriously? Let's just say that sometimes stooping to murder. So if you want to check that out, search for the Autobahn society on our website at W W w dot has to work dot com, for more or less and thousands of other topics. That house therefore sought com. How do you find a new way forward when suddenly you have two ready or not, maybe or relocating, or having your first baby or leaving relationship just starting or just stopped
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