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Seabirds of America

One of the most prized collections of natural history artwork is John James Audubon's The Birds of America. Within its aptly-named "double-elephant" sized pages, you can find beautiful hand-colored, life-sized illustrations of 206 bird species. Audubon sold subscriptions to his work to cover the high printing costs. Over the span of 12 years, from 1827 to 1838, subscribers received batches containing one large, one medium, and several small birds. In total, Audubon created 435 plates. Here is a selection of the plates that depict birds of the sea. Each is accompanied by text from Audubon's Ornithological Biography, the book that was made to accompany the images.

Editor's Note: As of March 2019, Volume 4 from the Duke of Portland edition of "The Birds of America" is on display in the Objects of Wonder exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

an illustration of two gannets