Put a Bird on It! John J. Audubon’s Birds of America at the TD Gallery
Calling all bird nerds!
The exhibit showcases striking images of birds from the masterwork of celebrated 19th century naturalist, John James Audubon (1785-1851), who set out to document all the known bird species in North America. The Toronto Public Library is very lucky to own one of the complete sets of the double-elephant folio edition of Birds of America – one of only five copies in Canada. The folio owes its enormous size to the fact that Audubon insisted every bird be illustrated life-size.
Whooping Crane (Plate 226), Grus Americana, 1834
Visit the gallery to get up close to a sampling of these rare hand-painted, engraved prints. Learn more about the habits and habitats of these birds in Audubon’s own words through quotes from his published field notes, known as the Ornithological Biography. You can also hear birdcalls and watch footage of birds in the wild on one of our neat interactive touchscreens!
There will be free guided tours of the exhibit today (September 29), October 20, or November 10 – tours begin at 2 p.m. in the TD Gallery.
Brown Pelican (Plate 421), Pelecanus occidentalis, 1838
Before and after your visit, there are lots of other ways to explore Birds of America at the library.
Check out our Virtual Exhibit for a sneak peak at the plates on display.
You can also join us for two special events for a deeper look into Audubon’s fascinating life and process:
- Audubon’s Aviary, a talk with John Robert Carley and Mark Peck, local experts in ornithology, field birding, and conservation. (Tuesday, October 13, 6 p.m. at the Toronto Reference Library – Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium)
- Katherine Govier on Audubon, a talk with the award-winning author about how the library’s copy of Birds of America helped inspire her novel Creation. (Wednesday, November 11, 2 p.m. at the Toronto Reference Library – Elizabeth Beeton Auditorium)
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading it, Govier’s wonderful novel imagines what may have happened on Audubon’s summer expedition up the dreary coast of Labrador and Newfoundland in 1833. His daily journal and letters detailing the three-month journey were apparently bowdlerized by his granddaughter in 1897.
The library also has many other captivating books about John James Audubon and his feathered subjects. Here is just a small sample:
Audubon's wilderness palette: the birds of Canada by David M. Lank
Into the woods: John James Audubon lives his dream by Robert Burleigh
The boy who drew birds: a story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Whether you are already an avid birder or just bird-curious, this is a wonderful time to explore one of the library’s great treasures.