Pitt has long been home to one of the rare full copies of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America.” And the University likes showing off this catch.
A few of the plates are on display, on a rotating basis, at all times at the Hillman Library, and once a year for the past eight years the University Library System has celebrated Audubon Day in the fall.
This year’s celebration on Nov. 5 will feature a display of 20 original prints from Audubon’s “Birds of America” from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in the Archives & Special Collections Reading Room, Room 363, Hillman Library and programming that celebrates birds and the Audubon Society, including live birds from the National Aviary.
Pitt’s copy of “Birds of America,” comprising 435 individual prints, was donated by the daughters of William and Mary Darlington in the early 1900s as part of a larger bequest of manuscripts, books, maps and atlases, which were the basis of the Darlington Memorial Library in the Cathedral of Learning.
The four-volume set — reportedly the single most-valuable set of materials in the Pitt Library collection — is one of only 120 known copies of the drawings by Audubon of all the birds known to him in the early 1800s.
A set similar to Pitt’s sold in 2010 for the equivalent of about $11.5 million at Sotheby’s.
Audubon Day events
All other programming will take place in Hillman Library, Room G-49 Digital Scholarship Commons.
- 10 a.m.: “Spare the Birds! Audubon, Grinnell, and the Birds of America,” presented by Carolyn Merchant, author of “Spare the Birds! George Bird Grinnell and the First Audubon Society” and professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics at University of California Berkeley. Book signing immediately following presentation.
- 11 a.m.: Live Bird Meet and Greet
- 1 p.m.: “A Century of Birds: The History of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania,” presented by Chris Kubiak, education director, Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. This talk will examine the growth and history of the organization as a local leader in bird education and how it championed the triumphant return of the Bald Eagle to Western Pennsylvania.
- 2 p.m.: Live Bird Meet and Greet
If you can’t make it to Hillman Library, the University’s “Birds of America” set has been digitized and can be viewed at audubon.pitt.edu