Audubon's First Engraved Illustration Discovered
For more than half a century, scholars and biographers of famed bird
artist and ornithologist John James Audubon had been stumped.In an 1824
diary entry, the young French immigrant, who lived for several years at
Mill Grove in Montgomery County, mentioned that he had given a drawing
of a running grouse to a Philadelphia engraver for use on a New Jersey
banknote. It would have been a key moment--the first published
illustration for the struggling artist, then 29 years old.
But if so, where was it? Nobody could find it. And as time went by, many
began to dismiss the story as a typical Audubon exaggeration. But Robert
Peck, curator of art and artifacts at the Academy of Natural Sciences,
decided to give it one last try. What he and Eric Newman, a numismatic
historian from St. Louis, found has rocked the world of Audubon
scholars, who are calling their discovery "a eureka moment."