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image of parrots from 'Birds of Australia'

Birds Down Under

September-October 2014

The exhibit on the public floor of the New York State Library during September and October of 2014 highlighted some of our rich ornithological holdings, with an emphasis on Australia and the surrounding Pacific.


left display case

A General History of Birds by John Latham was published in ten volumes between 1821 and 1828, its sumptuous plates designed, etched, and colored by the author himself. The Library's copy is beautifully bound, with gilt decoration, wildly marbled boards and matching endpapers.

Birds of Australia by Gregory Mathews was issued in 75 royal quarto parts published between 1910 and 1927 in a limited edition of 225 copies. The set contains over 600 glowing hand-colored lithographic plates.


center display case

In these pages one may observe the wonga-wonga, noddy, wherry-bill, mollymawk, and spangled drongo in all their feathered glory; marvel at the coloration of the purple-breasted fruit pigeon, red-kneed dotterel, sulphur-crested cockatoo, pink-cheeked parrot, and blue-bellied lorikeet; verify that the forty-spotted pardalote has that many; judge for yourself if the superb lyrebird is really that much grander than other lyrebirds; attempt to spot the inconspicuous honey-eater; and learn where the kookaburra actually sits.

Rotating illustrations will be displayed during the course of the exhibit, which airs through October.


right display case

The narrower cases ringing the public elevators feature back issues of Audubon, which hatched from its predecessor, Bird-Lore. Books and journals of a feather flock and frolic together on the 7th floor of the Library at the end of summer before migrating back to their sundry places of refuge in the deepest reaches of the stacks.

Items from the smaller cases


bound issue of Audobon magazine

Exhibit curated by Shawn Purcell.

Last Updated: November 2, 2021