AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851)
Autograph letter signed "J. J. Audubon" to naturalist Richard Harlan, discussing Audubon's publication of "The Birds of America"
St. Augustine, Florida: John James Audubon, January 16-18, 1832. Bi-folded folio. 4 pp. (9 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches). Integral address panel with St. Augustine postal stamp. Some faint staining and browning, small area of marginal loss where wax seal affixed.
"Should I live long enough to deserve her applause I shall die happy." A remarkable signed manuscript letter from John James Audubon, which addresses in detail the publication of his landmark work "The Birds of America."
Audubon may have deemed the Florida landscape "poor beyond any idea that can be given in a common letter," but in the present correspondence he also reports his discovery of a new species of Ibis, which he proposes to name Fantatus Fuscus. Additionally, he records "3 diferrent [sic] Species of Heaths," and notes his "curious observation" of warblers, "moving easterwards every warm day and returning every cold one." He also outlines his plans to travel up the St. John River aboard the US Navy schooner, the Spark. Ever focused on the project at hand, Audubon discusses the prospect of government assistance for his work, including the possibility of Congress subscribing for 50 copies of The Birds of America: "What do you think of such a plan and how could it be brought to bear on the hearts of the Backwoodsman or on the Arts of the Metropolitans?" In conveying this possibility to Harlan, Audubon's excitement over the increasing patronage of the United States of the sciences in general, and of himself in particular, is unmistakable: "I am prouder of my country than ever." Audubon's tone in this letter may not be quite as artless as it seems, since in a letter of 4 January 1832, to his wife, he describes his correspondence from Florida with Harlan and others as "Long accounts on my Peregrinations here abouts for Publication - and thou wilt see in the Papers more of my progress than through my letters I dare say." Audubon's expedition to Florida, projected as "my last Journey after Birds in North America," lasted from November 1831 until June 1832. Richard Harlan, a physician and naturalist of Philadelphia, had been a close friend and frequent correspondent of Audubon's since 1824. Harlan was a subscriber to The Birds of America.