Register of the Birds of America Print Collection
MS 102

This is a finding aid. It is a description of the contents of an archival collection held within the Special Collections at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web.

Summary Information

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections
Creator - Artist
Audubon, John James, 1785-1851
Johnson Reprint Corporation.
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum.
Birds of America Print Collection
MS 102
Date [inclusive]
4.0 Linear feet
This collections consists of all 435 facsimile prints from John James Audubon's original Birds of America series. This edition of prints is called the Amsterdam Edition and is considered to be the best facsimile to date.

Preferred Citation note

The Birds of American Print Collection, MS 102, UTC Special Collections, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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Biographical/Historical note

"John James Audubon was a daring and colorful character renowned for his adventurous nature, his artistic genius, and his obsessive interest in birds. Learn about his life by reading "John James Audubon -The American Woodsman: Our Namesake and Inspiration". He explored the natural history of much of the central and eastern United States, painted almost 500 species of the 700 or so regularly occurring North American species, worked tirelessly to promote his project, and set a new standard for artistry and printing. Perhaps above all else, Audubon was a lover and observer of birds and nature.

Audubon drew birds from life whenever possible rather than from specimens alone. He did, indeed, shoot specimens that he wired and propped into life-like positions as models for his paintings. Of equal or greater importance, he spent much of his life traveling the continent observing the birds (and animals) in remarkable depth and detail. He studied the creatures in all of their plumages. He attempted to tease out mysteries of aberrant plumages and apparent hybrids. He took note of the birds' food and habitat preferences meticulously. And, he watched them move, interact, and behave. He strove for action and reality; this was a new approach to the painting of birds.

Audubon has been accused of presenting his subjects in too theatric a manner. The occasionally awkward postures he often used, however, emphasize outstanding features or fieldmarks. The exaggerated curves and stretches in some of his paintings also reflect his artistic eye; they work in the context of the painting."

Taken from: Audubon Birds of American website. 2005. National Audubon Society. "John James Audubon as Artist" accessed on January 30, 2012 at .

The Johnson Reprint Corporation and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum created this facsimile edition in a joint effort.

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Scope and Contents note

This collection of Audubon bird prints was published between the years of 1971-1972 in the Netherlands and is referred to as the Amsterdam Edition. Created by the Johnson Reprint Corporation and the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, this set was one of the most ambitious recreates of all of the Audubons in their original double elephant folio sizes as they were published in Edinburgh between 1827 and 1838. The model for the Amsterdam Edition was an original set of Havell engravings, provided by Teyler's Museum in Haarlem, Holland, which copy came from their purchase of an original subscription to Birds of American, in 1839.

The printing of these 435 images was done on 100% pure cotton rag paper with the original Audubon watermark. The method used was multi-color offset lithography using up to 8 different colors- the highest standard. A large group of editors oversaw the project including members of the Smithsonian, the Department of the Interior, the Audubon Society, and elsewhere. Only 250 copies of this set were ever produced for its subscribers. The copy held by the special collections is number 98. The original 1971 price of the 435 plate set was $4500.00.

Text taken from an article by Terry Wright entitled The Amsterdam Edition of Audubon's Birds of America, which can be viewed at .

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Arrangement note

Series 1: Prints

Series 2: Book

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Special Collections January 31, 2012

615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga, TN, 37403

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research. Patrons must read and sign the "Rules for Use" form available in the Special Collections. Please contact the Special Collections of Lupton Library to use this collection.

Publication Rights

The copyright interests in the Birds of American Print Collection have not been transferred to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. For further information, see the section on copyright and publishing on the web site for the Special Collections, under "Policies".


There is no exact documentation of provenance for this collection. There is a letter in the control folder from the man believed to be the donor, in which he indicates his intent to give the collection to the Hunter Museum of Art. W.S. Keese, believed to be the donor, purchased the collection as a subscriber to the original series in 1971. All original receipts can be viewed in the collection control folder in the Special Collections department.

Processing Information note

Collection arranged and described by Chapel Cowden, January 2012.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Audubon, John James, 1785-1851
  • Keese, W.S.


  • Birds.
  • Offset printing.

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Other Finding Aids note

A catalog with a detailed listing of each lithograph (including common name, species name, and other elements in the image such as plant life) is available upon request.

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: Prints   26.5" x 39.5" (double elephant folio size)

Scope and Contents note

There are 435 individual lithographs in this collection. All but a handful are in excellent shape and have been stored in their original packaging. Many of the images include multiple species of birds and many more include plants that are also identified in the work.

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Series 2: A Synopsis of the Birds of North America (Book) 

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