Boston. March 23, 1833. pp., with integral address leaf, on a folded folio sheet. Previously folded, with old separations along folds expertly repaired with no loss of text. A few very small edge chips. Paper restored where it had been torn away by breaking of seal. Light tanning, slight discoloration in isolated spots. Very good. Item #WRCAM51715
A highly interesting letter from the famed American naturalist John James Audubon to his son, Victor Gifford Audubon, in London, discussing the business of subscriptions for and distribution of THE BIRDS OF AMERICA in and around Boston. In 1833, Victor had taken up residence in England with the elder Audubon's chief engraver, Robert Havell, in order to manage his father's affairs there and to supervise the production of plates. Although Audubon had nearly gassed himself to death several weeks earlier while attempting to euthanize an eagle for study, he was nevertheless enthused that the work on THE BIRDS, which took from 1827 to 1838 to complete, was at the halfway stage, and that subscriptions were increasing. This excitement is palpable in his letters to his son, the present dispatch being the third to Victor in the span of just a few days. The letter begins, "Although I have written two letters to you not more than 4 days ago, I do this again with great pleasure on account of the good tidings that I have to participate to you. - The Legislature of this state [Massachusetts] has passed an act for the subscription of one copy of our work. I have delivered the 1st volume to Mr. A.H. Everett, the secretary of the Library of the State. - The next Volume must be delivered 1/2 bound as that which Havell sent to Wm. Gaston of Savannah. Wm. Sturgis Esq. of Boston has also subscribed this day. - I have delivered him a volume also 1/2 bound - the next must reach him in like cover." Audubon goes on to describe the state of his accounts with his subscribers in Boston, including the Harvard College Library and the Society of Natural History, as well as several individuals, many of whom have had volumes delivered to them. In doing so, he makes an account of volumes that he has recently distributed, writing that, "The seven copies from Savannah have now been disposed off," and he lists out his subscribers in the Boston area, saying, "13 for Boston.- & 4... above makes 17 in all. Pretty well don't you think?" Audubon ends the letter by discussing his plans for volumes that have arrived in New York and his recent social engagement with the doctor that treated him after his recent health scare: "I have left Neal of Portland unsupplied because we wanted the 'ready.' I will supply him from New York, or Write to you to do so should I be so fortunate as to dispose of the 10 copies that are there. - In my last I said that the Work entered free of duty. Therefore all goes on well -- We have all dined at Docr. Parkman this day he is 'a friend indeed.' Do write him a good Long letter. It will please and gratify him much I am sure." Written at an important juncture in the production of THE BIRDS OF AMERICA, and sent just prior to the voyage to Labrador undertaken by Audubon and his other son John, with much revealing insight on the process of publishing and distributing Audubon's seminal work. Alice Ford, JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, pp.298-300.