Audubon’s Birds of America

Irvin Department of Special Collections

This exquisitely illustrated alphabet book, published in 1775, stands as a remarkable representation of early children’s literature from the eighteenth century. Crafted through copperplate engraving, the book was originally available in two versions: a plain edition priced at 9d. (9 pence) and a hand-colored edition priced at 1s6d (1 shilling, 6 pence). William Tringham, based in London, served as the publisher, and while this particular copy was likely sold plain, it was later adorned with vibrant colors.

During the late eighteenth century, the reproduction method used for this book, copperplate engraving, was relatively expensive but favored by esteemed children’s publisher John Newberry. Comprising 26 plates, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet, the book features an accompanying illustration and verse. The verses serve as valuable lessons, combining both orthographical and moral instruction, providing a delightful and educational experience for young readers.

The digitization of this precious alphabet book was completed by Laura Blair (MLIS 2011), who skillfully uploaded it into the content management system. Employing the Avision bookedge scanner, Blair scanned the bound volumes with precision and ensured the meticulous application of metadata using Dublin Core best practices. This ambitious endeavor was made possible through the invaluable assistance of Elizabeth Sudduth, the director of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and Tony Branch, the adept systems administrator for the CONTENTdm database. Their collective effort ensured the preservation and accessibility of this cherished piece of literary history.

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