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John James Audubon (April 26, 1785-January 27, 1951) was born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti) as Jean-Jacques Audubon. In 1803, he immigrated to the United States in flight of the Napoleonic Wars where he became fascinated with his natural surroundings and decided to pursue his early interest in birds and ornithology. He began a careful study of American birds, spurring his early experiments with bird-banding. Throughout his young life, Audubon amassed a collection of his own paintings and engraving plates of birds, and at the age of 41, decided to travel to England, where he gained instant attention. He soon raised enough money to publish Birds of America, his seminal work that inspired the Audubon Society to adopt him as their namesake. Audubon's careful studies of American wildlife have made him internationally renowned for his watercolors, pastels, and engravings.
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At the age of 35, John James Audubon embarked upon a mission to paint every bird in North America. In 1838, that project saw completion. Working with British engravers, Audubon transformed his watercolor and pastel works into what is now known as Birds of America. A total of 87 sets of five prints - making a total of 435 plates - were released between 1827 and 1838. By 1839, Audubon, along with the ornithologist William MacGillivray, published an accompanying text under the title Ornithological Biography. Eventually, due to popular demand and the great expense of the plates, Audubon released a bound, octavo edition, adding an additional 65 plates. Audubon's Birds of America has stood the test of time both for his artistic proficiency and his ornithological expertise, and is one of the most treasured books of the nineteenth century.
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