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Collection Overview

Audubon, John-James, 1785-1851 and Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
John James Audubon Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
6 boxes and 6 Volumes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6


John James Audubon (1785-1851) was a nineteenth-century ornithologist, artist, and naturalist who published his illustrations of American birds and quadrupeds. This collection includes several original manuscripts, transcripts and photostats of manuscripts, correspondence of John James and Lucy Bakewell Audubon (originals and copies), and other printed materials related to Audubon, which have been assembled from various sources.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Consists of materials created by and related to John James Audubon (1785-1851) that were collected from various sources. These include original manuscripts and correspondence, photostat copies and transcripts of additional manuscripts and correspondence, printed materials relating to Audubon's life and work, and files pertaining to a 1959 Princeton University Library exhibition titled "The World of John James Audubon." Much of this material was assembled by Dr. Howard C. Rice, Jr., former head of Special Collections at Princeton University Library.

Original Audubon manuscripts include several descriptions used in his Ornithological Biography (Edinburgh: A. Black, 1831-1839); manuscript descriptions to accompany plates 1-7, 10, 13-17, 19, 23, 25, 28, 31-32, 34, 36, 38, 40-41, and 45 in his Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (New York: J. J. Audubon, 1845-1848); and over 50 letters by Audubon to Lucy Bakewell Audubon (his wife), John Woodhouse and Victor Gifford Audubon (his sons), Robert Havell (the English engraver of Birds of America), and others. In addition, there are original letters by Lucy Bakewell Audubon, John Woodhouse and Victor Gifford Audubon, John and Julia Bachman, members of the Bakewell family, and Francis Herrick. Accompanying an 1834 letter to Robert Havell is also an original proof for "Summer Red Bird" (plate 44) in Birds of America.

More than 30 photostat copies and 6 bound volumes of Howard Corning's transcripts extend the collection's coverage of Audubon's correspondence. Corning's transcripts also cover Audubon's journals from 1820-1821 and 1840-1843. Subject files of printed materials include clippings, pamphlets, catalogs, and related correspondence pertaining to exhibitions about Audubon, his life in Florida, Robert Havell, portraits by and of Audubon, and Mill Grove, Audubon's Pennsylvania estate. Material related to Princeton's 1959 comprehensive Audubon exhibition includes related correspondence, publicity, and research files.

Collection Creator Biography:

Audubon, John-James, 1785-1851

John James Audubon (1785-1851) was an ornithologist, artist, and naturalist, best known for his drawings and paintings of North American birds. Audubon was born Jean Rabin Fougère in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo (now Haiti), the son of Captain Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, plantation owner, and enslaver, and Jeanne Rabin (or Rabine), a French chambermaid. Later in his childhood he moved to France, and when he was 18, he moved to the United States to manage Mill Grove, his family's farm outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He married Lucy Bakewell, the daughter of a neighboring landowner in 1808. Audubon began to develop an interest in North American birds as he unsuccessfully moved through careers as a mine owner, a shopkeeper, and a businessman. Eventually settling into whatever odd jobs he could obtain, Audubon began seeking a printer in Europe to publish his drawings of American birds. In 1838, Audubon finally published his The Birds of America through publisher Robert Havell of London. From 1839 until his death in 1851, Audubon remained primarily in New York, working on another edition of his book and a new book, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, with his sons.

Collection History


This collection was formed as a result of a departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject. Materials were acquired from various gifts and purchases.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Original processing information unknown. Biography written by Alyxandra Cullen, '09. The finding aid was revised by Kelly Bolding in 2020.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

John James Audubon Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-6

Find More

Existence and Location of Copies

Publications: Audubon's Ornithological Biography (Edinburgh: A. Black, 1831-1839) and Viviparous Quadrapeds of North America (New York: J. J. Audubon, 1845-1848); Letters of John James Audbon, edited by Howard Corning (1930).


The following sources were consulted during preparation of biographical note: Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Subject Terms:
Artists -- United States -- 19th century.
Mammals -- United States -- 19th century.
Ornithologists -- United States -- 19th century.
Ornithology -- United States -- 19th century.
Genre Terms:
Correspondence -- 19th century
Manuscripts -- 19th century.
Audubon, John-James, 1785-1851
Audubon, Lucy Green Bakewell, 1787-1874
Rice, Howard C. (Howard Crosby), 1904-1980