This exhibition has now closed, find out what else is going on at National Museum of Scotland



Explore one of the rarest and most coveted books of ornithological drawings, Birds of America, considered the archetype of wildlife illustration.

Published between 1827-1838, Birds of America contains 435 life-size watercolours, all reproduced from hand-engraved plates. Due to its enormous size (standing at almost one metre tall), very few complete versions remain today. The exhibition showcases a beautiful bound copy of Birds of America, 46 original unbound prints, rare books, letters, ephemera and taxidermy specimens that demonstrate the accuracy of the drawings. Coveted for its accurate life-size drawings of North American birds as well as it’s depiction of many now-extinct species, its scientific value makes Birds of America one of the most celebrated books of natural history.

Edinburgh was instrumental in the publishing of the original book, making a fitting place to host this exhibition delving its beautiful drawings in more detail. The book's creator however, naturalist and painter John James Audubon was a controversial figure – the naturalist community was highly critical of his practices and he profited from slave ownership during his lifetime. The ornithological encyclopaedia, Birds of America however remains an important window into the fragility and beauty of the natural world.

Prints & drawingsPaintingBooks & manuscriptsEdinburghScotland


With a National Art Pass you get

50% off exhibitions

Ready to discover more? Choose your pass


Exhibitions and events at National Museum of Scotland


Exhibitions nearby

Back to top