America's premier artist-naturalist, Audubon was born in Les Cayes, Santo
Domingo, and spent his boyhood in France. At the age of eighteen he came to the
United States to enter business but spent an increasing amount of time pursuing
his childhood interest in drawing birds. By 1820 he was already devoting his
efforts to what would eventually become The Birds of America, which would
illustrate all the then-known birds of North America. In 1826 he left America in
search of a publisher for the material he had already produced; his genius was
immediately recognized in Great Britain, both by artists and scientists, and
publication began. Over the next decade work continued, Audubon receiving
assistance from his sons Victor and John and from William MacGillivray who
collaborated with Audubon on the text which appeared in a five volume work,
Ornithological Biography (1831-1839), published in Edinburgh.
Columbia was one of only three United States colleges or universities
(along with Harvard and the other Columbia College, now the University of South
Carolina) to become original subscribers to the "Double-Elephant" folio edition.
It was published in less than two hundred sets with 435 hand-colored aquatints,
principally the work of Robert Havell, Jr. The entry for "Columbia College State
of N.Y." appears in Audubon's Ledger "B," dated May, 1833. Audubon had visited
the college, then located at Park Place, and had shown his drawings to a
gathering in the rooms of Columbia's president, the Rev. William Alexander Duer.
A subscription of $800 was raised, and Ledger "B" records that the set was
"Completed Nov. 10, 1838-(Bound)."