Audubon exhibition opens on 4 July

Eight million dollar book to star at summer exhibition as National Library celebrates anniversary with 'Birds of a Feather'

One of the world's most valuable books will take centre stage at the National Library of Scotland's summer exhibition, 'Birds of a feather: Audubon's adventures in Edinburgh', which tells the story of 19th-century American artist and adventurer John James Audubon and his strong links with Scotland. The exhibition opens on 4 July, which also marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Library's George IV Bridge building in Edinburgh.

A copy of Audubon's 'Birds of America' sold for a staggering $8.8 million at auction in 2000. A complete volume from this spectacular work has been loaned to NLS by Renfrewshire Council Education and Leisure Services and will be on display throughout the exhibition, along with life-sized plates from the book which are on loan from the National Museums of Scotland.

Audubon, whose portrait hangs in the White House, is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest wildlife artists. The book, which took 12 years to complete, comprises four volumes of 435 plates, depicting 1,065 life-like illustrations of 489 species.

The NLS exhibition invites visitors to step back in time to a Georgian drawing room, to learn the story of how the production of this world-famous book started in Edinburgh, and to meet seven influential figures who helped make it possible, including Sir Walter Scott, William Home Lizars, William MacGillivray and Robert Knox.

The exhibition also offers an insight into the painstaking engraving work that enabled Audubon's glorious illustrations to be reproduced to the highest standards possible in the 1820s. 'Birds of a feather', which runs until October 15, will be formally opened on 4 July by Patricia Ferguson MSP, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport.

A programme of free events will complement the exhibition, including talks and tours as well as a family 'Big Draw' event at the Mitchell Library [Glasgow], where a volume of 'Birds of America' will also be on display this summer.

The Library's George IV Bridge building was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 4 July 1956. Designed by architect Reginald Fairlie, the building took almost 20 years to complete. Work began in 1938, but was interrupted by the Second World War. Along the front façade are seven sculpted figures, representing 'The Arts of Civilisation', designed by Hew Lorimer.

Each week in 2006, the NLS website is highlighting an item collected in every year since the building was opened ( Items featured so far include a rare Shakespeare quarto (collected in 1956), an eighth-century Buddhist prayer scroll (1959), Earl Haig's war diary (1961), 'The Kilmarnock Burns', a first edition copy of Burns' poetry (1964), and a 1977 edition of 'The Beano' with the famous Super Skimmer toy.

The building's public areas will be undergoing refurbishment later this year to accommodate new reading and permanent exhibition spaces for the recently-acquired John Murray Archive, as well as a more visitor-friendly front of house area.

21 June 2006

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