Book: John James Audubon

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John James Audubon: The Making of an American

Author: Richard Rhodes
Publisher: Knopf

The first major biography of John James Audubon in 40 years, and the first to illuminate fully the private and family life of the master illustrator of the natural world.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Rhodes shows us young Audubon arriving in New York from France in 1803, falling in love, marrying, and crossing the Appalachians to start a new life in frontier Kentucky. We see him exploring the wilderness of birds—pelicans wading the shallows of interior rivers, songbirds flocking, passenger pigeons darkening the skies—and teaching himself to revivify them in glorious life-size images.

We follow him to instant fame in England, where he labors to publish his grand work The Birds of America. In the beautiful, often heartbreaking letters he and his wife, Lucy, exchange across the Atlantic, we read of their great and enduring love. We explore his legacy of acute observation—the sonorities of a wilderness now lost, the brash life of a new nation just inventing itself. And we see Audubon in the fullness of his years winning public honor: embraced by writers and scientists, feted by presidents and royalty. Here is a revelation of Audubon, both the artist and the man—an indispensable portrait of a true American icon.

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