Hand-colored illustration, Alexander Wilson’s American Ornithology, 1814.
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Painting of six birds. In the top left hand corner a cardinal is in flight. In The lower left through the center of the painting four birds are perched upon tree branches. In the lower right hand corner a bird grouses at the ground.

Credit: Library of Congress American Memory

Inspired to write a book on North American birds by Pennsylvania naturalist William Bartram, Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) completed illustrations of 268 species for his nine-volume American Ornithology, published between 1808 and 1814. In 1810, a decade before he began his own first great collecting expedition, John James Audubon met Wilson outside Louisville, Kentucky.

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