John James Audubon, an early American naturalist and painter, produced one of the greatest works of natural history and art of the nineteenth century, The Birds of America. As the record of the interior story of the making of this monumental work, his journal of 1826 is one of the richest documents in the history of American culture. The first accurate transcription of Audubon's 1826 journal, this edition corrects many of the errors, both intentional and unintentional, found in previous editions. Such errors have obscured the figure of Audubon as a man struggling to realise his professional and artistic dreams.
When Audubon embarked for Liverpool from New Orleans in 1826, he carried with him more than 250 of his watercolor drawings in a heavy case, a packet of letters of introduction, and many a good reason to believe that he was a fool to be gambling his family's fortunes on so risky and grandiose a venture. These journal entries, conveying with energy and emotion Audubon's experience of risking everything on a dream – "Oh, America, Wife, Children and acquaintances, Farewell! – document an American icon's transformation from a beleaguered backwoods artist and naturalist to the man who would become America's premier ornithologist, illustrator of birds, and nature essayist.
Foreword by John Knott
Introduction: John James Audubon's Journal of 1826: Its History and Significance
Bibliography Audubon's Journal of 1826
I. Departure from Bayou Sara and New Orleans; Voyage to Liverpool
IV. Return to Liverpool
V. Return to Manchester and Travel to Matlock and Bakewell
Appendix A. A Page from Audubon's 1828 Journal
Appendix B. Letters of Introduction Copied into the 1826 Journal
Appendix C. Frontmatter in the Manuscript of the 1826 Journal
John James Audubon (1785–1851) is one of America’s premier wildlife artists. His collection of 435 life-sized prints, The Birds of America, is often considered the greatest picture book ever produced.
Daniel Patterson is a professor of English at Central Michigan University. He is the editor of The Missouri River Journals of John James Audubon (Nebraska, 2016) and Early American Nature Writers: A Biographical Encyclopedia.
John R. Knott is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan and the author and editor of numerous works, including Imagining the Forest: Narratives of Michigan and the Upper Midwest.
"[...] for the modern reader, a profound reminder of how the speed of communications technology has changed just about everything [...] we are very lucky indeed to have a definitive transcription of the document that describes how that happened."
– Anthony Doerr, author of the story collection Memory Wall, writing for The Boston Globe, July 2011
" [...] now edited for the first time to preserve what he actually wrote, rather than what previous editors thought he should have written."
– John McEwen, Country Life