A rare piece of Auduboniana

Audubon, J. J.

Account of the habits of the Turkey Buzzard ( Vultur aura), particularly with the view of exploding the opinion generally entertained of its extraordinary power of smelling.

Published 1827
Item ID 76486

excl. VAT

Edinburgh, Adam Black, 1827. 8vo (22.5 x 14.4 cm). 13 pp. [numbered 172-184]. Original printed wrappers.

A seldom-seen work by the American ornithologist and zoologist John James Audubon (1785-1851), being a detailed account on the sense of smell in vultures, the American species now known as turkey vulture in particular. "This communication was originally intended to be sent to a friend unacquainted with the habits of birds" (Audubon, footnote on p. 172). However, Audubon went into quite some detail, and made his paper useful to both interested lay reader and experienced ornithologists. Published in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Exhibiting a View of the Progressive Discoveries and Improvements in the Sciences and the Arts, (conducted by Professor Robert Jameson, October - December 1826).We offer the whole issue, with 212 pp. Audubon concluded the paper on 7 December 1826, while staying in Edinburgh, but it was published in January of the following year. This paper annoyed the British ornithologist and early environmentalist Charles Waterton (1782-1865), who had previously described how vultures use smell to locate carrion. Waterton doubted Audubon’s writing abilities, and hence the contents of his writings. He suggested that somebody else had written this paper. In a rebuttal, Robert Bakewell, the nephew of Lucy Audubon’s grandfather, pointed out that "until the age of seventeen, Mr Audubon spoke only French, and would it not only be natural for him to ask his wife, an educated English lady from a good family, to cast her eye over his prose before he sent it off for publication? And might it also be the case, that he might ask a scientific friend to perform a similar task, just to verify his facts?" (see Hartley, M. [2013] The Crabby Criticisms of the Cozy Connoisseur blog). Uncut. Wrappers with some light wear, the spine ends more abraded; and a small stamp and inscription on the front wrapper. Otherwise very good, clean. Chancellor, J. (1978) Audubon. A Biography, pp. 187-188. Not in Cat. BM(NH).

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