Alexander Wilson: new book

Cover of new book on Alexander Wilson

  Alexander Wilson: the Scot who Founded American Ornithology

  by Edward H. Burtt, Jr. and William E. Davis, Jr.

This definitive new biography of Wilson, from Harvard University Press, features the collection of “Original drawings and watercolors made for American Ornithology” in the Special Collections of the Ernst Mayr Library.   Authors Burtt and Davis worked extensively with Special Collections staff Dana Fisher and Robert Young, both with the original drawings and other Wilson materials such as correspondence and manuscripts.

Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), who was born in Paisley, Scotland, emigrated to the United States in 1794, settling in Philadelphia, PA.   Beginning in 1808, Wilson published the nine volume series American Ornithology, describing and illustrating 268 species of birds. The final volume of the series was completed by Wilson’s colleague George Ord in 1814, following Wilson’s untimely death at the age of 47.

Wilson’s work, especially the realistic depiction and coloring of the birds, was an inspiration to John James Audubon (1785-1851).   In addition to his accomplishments as a naturalist, illustrator, and author, Wilson was also a skilled weaver and poet.   It is fitting to celebrate Wilson with this new volume, in the bicentennial year of his death.  Burtt and Davis portray Wilson’s life and work in detail, with additional sections on his predecessors, colleagues and legacy.

Posted by Mary Sears

Alexander Wilson's Magpie

See also: New Books