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John James Audubon: the Making of an American.

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON: The Making of an American

Rhodes, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb, has written the first full biography in some 40 years of naturalist-traveler-entrepreneur John James Audubon. That name remains synonymous with birding, a pastime that has captured millions of modern people. As a child, Audubon could have hardly imagined this fate, as he was the bastard child of a French naval officer and a chambermaid. His birthright was to be shunned and undeserving of inheritance. This fact, combined with a desire to avoid recruitment into Napoleon's army, made America the natural destination for Audubon. Within a short time of arriving in the United States, he met and married Lucy Blackwell, who understood her husband's quest to document and illustrate as many bird species as possible. She was supportive emotionally and financially. Audubon would travel for years at a time--looking for new specimens as well as for benefactors for his project--while his wife would both work and maintain the home. Rhodes draws on the letters written between John James and Lucy Audubon during his travels, and on words penned by friends, colleagues, and potential benefactors. The combination elucidates the depth of Audubon's character and scope of his masterwork The Birds of America, which he finally published in all its glory. This tome not only featured hundreds of watercolors, but was also complemented by five volumes of text on the birds and U.S. pioneer life--topics that fascinated the world at the time and still enchant readers today. Knopf, 2004, 514 p., b&w photos/illus., hardcover, $30.00.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 18, 2004
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