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Morris Tyler family collection of John James Audubon

Call Number: GEN MSS 85
Scope and Contents

The Morris Tyler Family Collection of John James Audubon consists primarily of papers relating to the naturalist John James Audubon (1785-1851) and other members of the Audubon family. Also included are research material and personal papers of Audubon's descendants, the Tylers, and a nineteenth century autograph collection gathered by a family member whose precise identity is not known. The papers span the years 1697-1982, with the bulk of the material covering the period 1820-1855.

The papers have been organized in seven series: Audubon Family Correspondence, Audubon Correspondence With Others, Audubon-Related Correspondence, Writings, Audubon Family Papers, Tyler Research Files, and Autograph Collection. This last series includes a scrapbook containing a number of pieces of Audubon and Audubon-related correspondence. A detailed list of the contents of the volume is provided in this register.

Series I, Audubon Family Correspondence , consists primarily of correspondence among family members during John James Audubon's lifetime. There also are letters written by or to his wife, Lucy, and sons, Victor and John Woodhouse Audubon after John James Audubon's death. A folder of later family letters (1854-1981), including Tyler family correspondence, is placed at the end of the series. Letters were often joint efforts, particularly those of the immediate family, with portions written by two or more correspondents. The filing convention used for letters with multiple authors has been to place any letter with a John James Audubon portion, however small, in the folders under his name. In all other cases letters are filed under the first or principal writer. In every case, cross references are used to point the researcher to the existence of additions to letters filed under other names.

The Audubons were prolific letter writers and their correspondence is filled with personal news and details of Audubon's business ventures. The letters of John James Audubon span the years 1829-46, when he was traveling in Europe and North America. They contain news about family and friends, instructions concerning the drawings and plates for his various works, reports of his travels in search of subscribers, and discussions of the financial condition of his publishing projects. The involvement of Audubon's immediate family in his endeavors is reflected in their letters, particularly those of his wife, Lucy, and of their son, Victor. Lucy Bakewell Audubon discusses financial matters, efforts to obtain subscribers, and the progress of the works. Her letters from the 1830s chronicle the problems with Audubon's engraver, Robert Havell, Jr., the Grand Manan expedition, the efforts of Mechanics Magazine to draw Audubon into a "paper war," and the financial status of the projects. Her correspondence from the 1840s concerns corrections to plates, delivery dates, and statistics on subscribers by location. Victor Gifford Audubon's letters concern various business matters such as his efforts to obtain subscribers and his oversight of Havell's work in the early 1830s.

The Audubons' extended family is also represented in this series. There are several folders of letters from members of Lucy Audubon's family, the Bakewells, Berthouds, and Gordons as well as a number of letters from Audubon's brother-in-law and sister, Gabriel Loyen and Rose du Puigaudeau. In the single letter from Jean Audubon to his son, the senior Audubon writes of John James' parentage.

Series II, Audubon Correspondence With Others , consists of letters exchanged by Audubon and his family with individuals outside of the family. Most of the letters were written between 1827-47, while Audubon was publishing Birds of America, Ornithological Biography, and Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, and there are many letters to and from naturalists and ornithologists including Spencer F. Baird, John James Abert, John Bachman, Samuel George Morton, and William Swainson. General business matters are discussed in the correspondence with Robert Havell, Jr. and with William H. Lizars, Havell's predecessor. Other correspondents in the series include Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Henry Clay, Edward Everett, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Titian Ramsay Peale. There are also four letters (1791-1802) to Jean Audubon, from Miers Fisher, a friend and business associate. Letters by John James Audubon found in this series include drafts retained by Audubon and letters which appear to have been acquired by the family at a later date. Unidentified correspondence has been arranged chronologically and placed at the end of the series. Two folders of chronologically arranged letters to members of later generations will also be found at the end of the series.

Series III, Audubon-Related Correspondence , is organized in two subseries, Letters of Introduction and Other Audubon-Related Correspondence, arranged alphabetically by letter writer, with names of recipients noted when known. Unidentified letters are placed at the end of each subseries. The letters of introduction are primarily ones written for John James Audubon although there are several for his sons. Among those who wrote introductions for Audubon were Washington Irving, Andrew Jackson, Edward Everett, Dewitt Clinton, Edward Harris, William Hay, Daniel Webster, and Thomas Jesup. Recipients included the Marquis de Lafayette, Martin Van Buren, and Alexander von Humboldt. Other Audubon-Related Correspondence consists of third-party letters that mention or relate to Audubon and his work. Presumably many of these letters were passed on to John James Audubon by the recipient and it is conceivable that others were acquired in later years by family members. Correspondence found in this subseries includes letters to John Bachman, Richard Harlan, Robert Havell, and George Parkman. In an interesting and lengthy letter to George Parkman, John Quincy Adams writes in 1835 of his experiences with dogs. The letter apparently was written in response to a request for assistance from Parkman and Audubon in their research on canine instinct and memory.

The scrapbook, which is part of the autograph collection (Box 18), contains additional letters by, to, or pertaining to John James Audubon. A lengthy contents note (to be found on pages 60-62 of this register) lists the letters in series order and provides the page numbers on which they can be found in the scrapbook.

Series IV, Writings is organized in two subseries: Writings of John James Audubon, and Writings of Others, which in turn are arranged alphabetically by author and then by title. Printed and manuscript ephemera related to a particular work has been filed with the writings under the appropriate title.

The materials on Birds of America include six pen and pencil sketches of bird anatomy, several prospectuses and subscription lists, an exhibition announcement, thirty pages from volume six of the octavo edition, and a House of Representatives Executive Document concerning the use of Birds of America and The Quadrupeds of North America as gifts for foreign dignitaries. The section devoted to Ornithological Biography contains the copyright, an 1835 review, and manuscripts for chapters on five of the birds. (The Beinecke Library also holds an autograph manuscript of chapters from volumes 3 - 5 of Ornithological Biography, which is cataloged separately.) The most extensive section in Writings of John James Audubon consists of material on Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America and includes a copyright receipt, a draft of the introduction, and manuscript material for chapters on seventy mammals. Most of the manuscript appears to be in the hand of Victor Gifford Audubon.

Other works by Audubon in this series include partial transcriptions of two journals. The first, consisting of pages 5-16 of a journal kept during a voyage from New Orleans in 1826, includes transcriptions of letters of introduction written for Audubon by Edward Holden, Vincent Nolte, and Randall Cuvell. The second, copied from Audubon's Journal no. 5 of his expedition on the upper Missouri River in 1843, records encounters with Indians and his observations of buffalo and elk. It also contains a transcription of a long section from the journal of Alexander Culbertson, chief factor of the American Fur Company.

The second subseries, Writings of Others, contains an untitled account by Victor Gifford Audubon of a voyage taken on the steamer "Rufus King" in 1832 as well as a fragment of a poem in the hand of Eliza Audubon. There are pieces about Audubon by Annie Audubon, Elliot Ebenezer, and by a Reverend Adam. Short works by naturalists John Bachman, Spencer F. Baird, Edward Harris, George A. McCall, Thomas McCulloch, Jr., and John T. Sharpless will also be found here. Three items by unidentified authors are placed at the end of the subseries.

Series V, Audubon Family Papers , contains the personal papers of the Audubon family and is organized in three subseries: Financial and Legal Papers; Maps and Plans; and Other Papers. The Financial and Legal Papers subseries documents personal and business transactions of John James Audubon and includes bills and receipts, deeds, and an insurance policy. The Maps and Plans subseries contains several maps and plans of the Audubon estate in New York, "Minnie's Land," drawn after Audubon's death when the property was sold at auction. There are also house plans of an unidentified dwelling drawn by John Woodhouse Audubon in 1851. Two maps drawn by N. L. Coste, one titled "Mouth of Mannatee River" and another of the "Entrance to Apalachicola Bay" are included here as well. Other Papers include a permission to pass through Indian country granted to John James Audubon in 1843, a catalog for a posthumous sale of Robert Havell's paintings, passports, membership certificates, and exhibit admission tickets. The origin of another item in this section, a small textile piece that was possibly used as a small pillow cover or sachet case, is unknown.

Series VI, Tyler Research Files , contains reference material on Audubon, research notes, photographs, and transcripts of original material from the collection and of items for which the location of the original is not known. The material appears to have been compiled by more than one generation of Tylers. Most of the notes are analyses and checklists of the correspondence and other documents included in the collection. The transcripts of correspondence include letters from the collection as well as other Audubon family letters for which the location of the originals is not noted. There are also photocopies of transcripts of interviews with Harriet Audubon and Alicia Shaffer (Lucy Audubon's niece) in which they speak of their memories of life in the Audubon household and a transcript and translation of a 1790 power of attorney granted by several investors to Jean Audubon. The photographs include images of several well-known paintings of or by Audubon. The series also includes original correspondence from Audubon biographers Alice Ford and Stanley Clisby Arthur.

Series VII, the Autograph Collection , has been organized in five subseries: Correspondence; Scrapbook; Writings; Other Documents; and Prints. The collection appears to have been compiled in the late 1800s. Much of the material is Audubon-related and it seems likely that the collector was a family member. Victor's second wife, whom he married in 1843, was Georgianna Richards Mallory and references in several letters suggest that the original collector was a Miss Mallory. In an 1870 letter to "Miss Mallory" an unknown correspondent (Geo. ----) writes "I came across the enclosed which perhaps you may like to add to your collection." The collection includes letters to Daniel Mallory, editor and compiler of The Life and Speeches of the Hon. Henry Clay, which further supports the theory of a Mallory provenance.

The Correspondence subseries includes letters by U. S. presidents, military officials, cabinet officers, governors, authors, college presidents, and other prominent nineteenth century figures. Correspondents include Phillips Brooks, James Buchanan, Tench Coxe, Millard Fillmore, Horace Mann, and Noah Webster. There are several letters from Henry Clay to Daniel Mallory, in which Clay writes of his life and political career, including two in which Clay expresses his opinions of Andrew Jackson. Also included in the subseries are several groups of letters to booksellers and publishers. There are a number of letters dated 1816-33 from writers, several from Connecticut, to New Haven bookseller Hezekiah Howe. A group of letters to a Boston publisher, James Munroe & Co., includes letters from Ralph Waldo Emerson, C. C. Felton, and John Frost. Another set of letters is from theologians, philosophy professors, and college presidents writing to Smith, English & Co. of Philadelphia. Most are offering their reactions after reading review copies of William Fleming's Vocabulary of Philosophy.

The Scrapbook, housed in Box 18, contains autographs, engravings, photographs, and correspondence. As noted earlier, much of the correspondence is to or about John James Audubon. The scrapbook has been retained intact and a note on pages 60-62 lists in series order the correspondence and other documents included in it. It was a practice of the autograph collector (and a common practice among collectors at the time the album was created) to place, adjacent to an autographed item, an engraving of the signer. No attempt has been made to list the many engravings included in the scrapbook, however, nor have autographs unaccompanied by correspondence been listed in the register.

Writings consist of poems or songs by William Orland Bourne, A. P. Heinrich, J. Hogarth Lozier, and Josephine Pollard. An untitled piece by Benjamin Silliman on chemical compounds, possibly part of an appendix, is also included.

Other Documents are arranged alphabetically by the name of the person for whose signature the item was collected. This is a varied group of material and includes such items as a Colonial banknote, an 1834 election proclamation, a passport signed by Hamilton Fish, a Congressional act signed by Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State in 1790, and a Scottish baronial court document of 1697. Folders at the end of the subseries hold autographs clipped from documents, notes by the autograph collector, printed material that does not include signatures, and several receipts with unidentified signatures.

Illustrations in the Prints subseries include several engravings of people whose autographs are also included in the collection. There are also engravings and reproductions of other artwork as well as several drafts of engravings of two unidentified men by E. Abot. There is a large print of a photograph titled "Yale Fence and Old Brick Row in 1877." Several other photographs are included in the scrapbook and are listed in the note on page 63.

Boxes 15-18 hold oversize materials

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 19: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Morris Tyler Family Collection of John James Audubon is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

A large part of the collection was donated to The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in February 1985 by Morris Tyler (1901-1987), a descendant of Audubon. Additional material was deposited at the Beinecke in December 1985 and subsequently donated by Mr. Tyler in December 1986.

1697 - 1982
Majority of material found within 1820 - 1855
12.3 Linear Feet (19 boxes)
Related Names
Audubon, John James, 1785-1851
Language of Materials