John James Audubon (1785-1851), an American ornithologist, spent nearly four decades sketching, publishing, and promoting a monumental catalogue of the birds of America; his "The Birds of America," published in 1827-38, and the accompanying five volumes of descriptive text, the "Ornithological Biography" (1831-39), is one of the most significant American scientific, artistic, and intellectual accomplishments. Plagued throughout his life by financial difficulties, Audubon found friends and financial support in Charleston and South Carolina, and some of his most satisfying travel was to visit his friend, the Reverend John Bachman, the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church (see John Bachman). Bachman's sister-in-law, Maria Martin, became Audubon's assistant, carefully drawing in the background plants and scenery for Audubon's accurate and detailed birds. Audubon worked in Charleston in 1831, 1832, 1833-34, and 1836-37, living with the Bachmans each time. Many of the birds drawn on those visits have Lowcountry scenes and buildings as their habitat, including a fine view of Charleston on his "Long-Billed Curlews" (see "Long Billed Curlews" By James Audubon). South Carolina was the first state to recognize the significance of Audubon's achievement; the Legislature ordered a subscription to an "elephant folio" of "Birds of America" for the library of South Carolina College, not to exceed $800. There are now three copies of the complete Elephant Folio Edition extant in South Carolina. Portrait from an engraving that appeared in a biography by Audubon's wife, Lucy.
Courtesy of the Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina.