Public Program- Gregory Nobles

Lectures and Performances
Thursday, November 6, 2003 - 7:30pm

Ornithology and Enterprise: Making and Marketing John James Audubon's The Birds of America
By Gregory H. Nobles

The James Russell Wiggins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture

Audubon illustration of hawk carrying a rabbitThis illustrated lecture will focus on John James Audubon's double elephant folio edition of The Birds of America a work that still stands as one of the most remarkable artistic and scientific achievements in the history of the book. It is a massive work of natural history that offers the reader an innovative interplay between image and text. For Audubon, though, producing this "Great Work" proved to be as much about enterprise as ornithology, and The Birds of America became the family business for more than three decades. Nobles will consider the popular perception of Audubon's birds from his time to our own, exploring the connection between the cultural and commercial significance of this big book about birds that represents both an investigation of nature and an investment in art. The various ways people have valued Audubon's work leads to the question of whether The Birds of America is--or should be--a book at all. This is the twenty-first annual Wiggins Lecture named for James Russell Wiggins (1903 - 2000), president of the Society from 1970 to 1977, who was editor of the Washington Post and, until his death in 2000 at the age of 96, editor of the Ellsworth (Maine) American. Wiggins also served as US ambassador to the United Nations in 1968.

Gregory H. Nobles is professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Divisions Throughout the Whole: Politics and Society in Hampshire County, Massachusetts 1740-1775 and American Frontiers: Cultural Encounters and Continental Conquest, and co-author of Evolution and Revolution: American Society 1600-1820. He held a Boni Fellowship at AAS in 1991-92.

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