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Audubon - Birds of America
November 27, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Audubon's "The Birds of America" has been mentioned here before (1 2). The University of Pittsburgh's digital library has now made available zoomable high-resolution scans of each page of the first 'double elephant' folio edition, as well as a scanned copy of his Ornothological Biography, which is an entertaining read in itself.

It's really an impressive book. I think there are several on display around the country. There's one at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia - every day, one page of the book is turned by a member of the archives staff.
posted by carter (18 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is outstanding. The double elephant folios are HUGE and the details in the paintings are really amazing. That they've managed to create high resolution scans of the pages is great to begin with, but putting them online in zoomable format for anyone to look at... Just simply wow.

Thanks so much for posting this.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 AM on November 27, 2011


oh this is wonderful. I love that one can resize the thumbnail to fit the size of any monitor, then zoom within.
Beautiful images.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:57 AM on November 27, 2011


The library I work at has a very good Audubon collection, including many of his original drawings for Birds of America.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


metafilter needs more posts tagged 'doubleelephant'.
posted by jepler at 11:03 AM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is relevant to my interests.
posted by birdherder at 11:21 AM on November 27, 2011


Mine too!
posted by rtha at 11:24 AM on November 27, 2011


Wow, this is nice.

Is there a way to see the full-size high-res images?
posted by box at 11:58 AM on November 27, 2011


Sweet. Now I can print some good fakes to swap out for the real ones on display in the lobby.
posted by codswallop at 12:11 PM on November 27, 2011


Or print out this form (pdf) and have them do it for you. They'll even do full-size repros... for only $300 each.
posted by hippybear at 12:24 PM on November 27, 2011


For anyone interested in the backstory of this I can wholeheartedly recommend Audubons Elephant, an absolutely fascinating read.
posted by unliteral at 2:39 PM on November 27, 2011


Good one carter! Thanks.
posted by peacay at 2:58 PM on November 27, 2011


Loved this link! Wonderful to see the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, considered extinct now, but some sightings lately. Thanks again
posted by smudgedlens at 3:18 PM on November 27, 2011


I was pleased to recently learn that these were originally published so as to be life size. That's why large breeds are so contorted, cramped to fit on the page!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:08 AM on November 28, 2011


> Is there a way to see the full-size high-res images?

When it's a Flash interface, chances of that drop way down. When there's also a link on the welcome page about "Ordering reproductions" you may be sure they've done their best to lock the full scans away where not even the Google spider can find 'em.
posted by jfuller at 7:41 AM on November 28, 2011


Having done several dozen usability studies on various digital projects like this, I have to ask: Is there a law against having a decent, usable interface for these things? Why are all these products stuck -- graphically and usability-wise -- in 2002?
posted by coolguymichael at 11:58 AM on November 28, 2011


> The library I work at has a very good Audubon collection, including many of his original drawings for Birds of America.

Hat tip to Harvard, theirs is a scripted interface too--this seems unavoidable in the artsy/museum world--but all you have do here is unblock javascript, unlike most museum sites that make you install Flash if you don't have it; and H does make sort-of-hi-res images available for download. The drawing of the Little horned Owl is listed as 30 x 23 cm, which would be 2362 x 1810 pixels if scanned at 200 ppi. What you actually get when you download it is a 2450 x 1895 pixel jpeg, with the white border accounting for the difference. Now, 200 ppi is cheap home scanner territory, and the low end at that. In the downloadable large images the pencil guidelines are clear but the texture of the pastel strokes on the paper is a bit vague and the texture of the unmarked paper is basically not visible, just mottled tan fog. What you can see in the zoom window at maximum zoom is qhite a bit better than that, so they've got bigger, cleaner scans they aren't handing out.


> Why are all these products stuck -- graphically and usability-wise -- in 2002?

If only they were stuck in 1995. All an image site needs is a bunch of thumbnails, each one a link to the full scan. Anything beyond that is obtrusive cruft, and everything needed to do that was supported in html 1.0.
posted by jfuller at 2:44 PM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think to be fair to the archives, they're often run on shoe-string budgets, and are seen as low priorities by the institutions that they serve. If they can generate some cash from this, they can get back to preserving and making accessible (in some form at least) all the other stuff that they have.

I know $300 sounds a lot, but for a 28" x 40" archival quality print on 285 gsm paper, that's really not too bad.
posted by carter at 7:13 PM on November 28, 2011


Cool. I was surprised to see a copy at Nemacolin but didn't have time to look at it. From memory and pictures it looks like it might be smaller than the double elephant, but I'm unsure if it could be another edition.

BTW it looks like the last sale of an original was in 2010 for $11.5 million.
posted by exogenous at 11:12 AM on November 29, 2011


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