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Discovered: Audubon's first engraving of a bird
Date:7/29/2010

ave dismissed it as a red herring, invented by Audubon (a frequent embellisher of his own achievements) to burnish his reputation in the lean years before publishing his landmark book, The Birds of America (1827-1838).

Now, research by Peck and Newman on the 19th-century American banking and engraving companies that furnished paper money at the time confirm the reliability of the artist's assertion and explain how forces beyond his control denied Audubon the numismatic immortality he craved.

By tracing the graphic offerings of the bank note engraver Gideon Fairman (1774-1827), to whom Audubon gave his drawing of a Heath Hen (a subspecies of the Pinnated Grouse or Greater Prairie Chicken), the authors successfully identified the lost Audubon image and provided two possible explanations for the elusiveness of Audubon's first published bird illustration. The ill-fated Audubon grouse image, which the authors found on engraved bank note sample sheets in a private collection, did eventually make its way onto proof bank notes made for at least two independent banks. But because these banks were in Connecticut and Ohio and were made years after the artist's initial contact with Fairman, they were not detected as being by Audubon, until now.

The full account of the engraving and its place in Audubon's celebrated works will appear in the fall issue of the Journal of the Early Republic, the journal of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, published by Penn Press. The society is housed at the Library Company of Philadelphia.


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Contact: Carolyn Belardo
belardo@ansp.org
215-299-1043
The Academy of Natural Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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