AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES Autograph letter signed.
To Thomas Allis, Friends Retreat, Yorkshire, dated London, July 29, 1831. Single page on folded notepaper, twelve lines of text (plus salutation and felicitation) in brown ink, address panel on verso of the last leaf. 9 3/4 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm). First leaf a tad lightstained from an earlier framing, the verso of the terminal leaf rather browned, with notes of an ornithological nature in pencil next to the address panel (possibly by Allis?). Usual folds, with minor separations on the blank leaf; framed with a portrait.
"I give this to my friend Mr. Robt Havell the Engraver with the view to introduce him to you--he visits York for the purpose of shewing his works and mine at the meeting of Naturalists in September and I will be thankful to you for any advice or introductions you care to give him. He will tell you of our sailing for America. I shall not forget the Bird you want be assured..."
Thomas Allis was a well-regarded Yorkshire natural historian specializing in osteology, the author of several papers on avian anatomy; in the text for plate 306 of the Birds, Audubon notes that the bones of a female great northern diver (i.e., the loon) had been presented to Allis, quite possibly the specimen that is promised here. This letter, written during his 1830 trip to England with his wife, is remarkable for its mention of Robert Havell, Audubon's engraver, and for its brief glimpse into the promotional efforts that he and Havell undertook to ensure the success of the work. Audubon met with a level of recognition (even adulation) in England that had utterly eluded him in America, where he had antagonized the Philadelphia establishment (crucial for the support of any major American publishing project), including such giants as Titian Peale, the engraver Alexander Lawson, and George Ord (the friend and backer of the ornithologist Alexander Wilson). Ord in particular became a lifelong opponent; he blocked Audubon's efforts to approach Philadelphia engravers about his projected ornithological work, and it was this rejection that led to Audubon's English journeys and to his fruitful association with Havell.
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