Audubon’s Legacy

By Robert M. Peck
Senior Fellow of the Academy

A contemporary Italian artist who goes by the single name of Hitnes recently visited the Academy in pursuit of his passion. His day-long visit was the culmination of a three-month project during which he retraced some of John James Audubon’s 19th-century travels through the U.S. and created a series of large public murals inspired by Audubon’s work.

We were happy to show Hitnes and his film crew the Academy’s subscription copy of Birds of America, as well as some of our original Audubon manuscripts, association items and specimens. We wish him well with his continuing project. To learn more about Hitnes and his “Image Hunter” project, visit The Image Hunter website.

Every weekday at 3:15 p.m., museum visitors are invited to hear a short talk and observe the turning of a page of Audubon's Birds of North America elephant folio.

Audubon first visited the Academy (then located in a building on Broad Street) in the spring of 1824. At that time, he was just beginning to plan his pioneering book on American birds.

He made several subsequent trips to the Academy, which ultimately acquired a copy of his famous “double elephant folio” (1827-1838) directly from the artist. That breathtakingly beautiful masterpiece of art and science, seen above, is now part of our Library and Archive collections.

Senior Fellow Robert Peck and Hitnes in the archives.
Senior Fellow Robert Peck and Hitnes in the archives.

In the temperature and humidity-controlled environment of the museum’s rare book room, we keep Audubon’s signed copies of the Academy’s Journal, and the copy of Ornithological Biography, the smaller-format book of text that accompanied his large color plate book. This last volume was presented and inscribed to the Academy in October 1831 at the time Audubon was elected a corresponding member of the Academy.

Audubon would no doubt be pleased to know that his seminal contributions to science and art are still being appreciated at the Academy, by contemporary artists like Hitnes and by bird-lovers from around the world.


To learn more about the Academy’s world-renowned Library and Archives, visit our webpage.

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