Audubon’s Birds of America

In his landmark work, John Audubon set out to identify and meticulously portray 435 different birds, which he believed were all the species found in the United States and its territories. The large format, known as a “double elephant folio” due to its enormous dimensions, was chosen so that he could render the birds life-size.

Audubon sought to portray birds as they appeared in nature, showing them in their habitat and drawing them from life as well as from posed specimens. To do so, he needed an enormous page; small birds were often shown in flocks, and large birds, to fit on the page, were illustrated with folded necks or frontally, rather than from the side.