Letter: Capital support

I SUSPECT few people in Edinburgh and the United States are aware that Lord Hesketh's Birds of America, which sold on Tuesday for £7.3 million (your report) might never have been sold at all if it was not for the support Audubon received in the capital.

He came to this country in 1826 in the hope of finding an engraver who could reproduce his paintings life-sized. In Edinburgh, he found William Homes Lizars, who reproduced the first engravings. Audubon grew to love Edinburgh, his "fair Edina", and spent nearly three years in the city during visits between 1826 and 1839.

He had no scientific training and worked with William MacGillivray, the conservator of the College of Surgeon's museum, producing the Ornithological Biography, published in Edinburgh by Adam and Charles Black.

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Audubon wrote that if it had not been for the help which he received in this country his work "might like an uncherished plant, have died". Edinburgh University sold its copy of Birds of America in 1992 for 2.3m. Four complete sets remain in Scotland, but none in Edinburgh where it all started.


Eden Lane, Edinburgh