AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). Autograph letter signed ("J.J. Audubon") to his son John W. Audubon, n.p. [Edinburgh, Scotland], n.d. [postmarked 28 May 1839]. 1 page, small 4to, addressed on verso by Audubon, two postal handstamps, tiny separation at one fold, otherwise fine.
A good letter written during Audubon's second trip to Scotland, while he was immersed in the publication of his Ornithological Biography, and planned octavo editions of The Birds of America and The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. The ornithologist and artist writes to his youngest son, handling his affairs in London, regarding shipments of plates and parts from his engraver, Robert Havell. Audubon writes: "Although we may yet write once more to you at Portsmouth ... I wish to Say to John[n]y to Call on [Robert] Havell and to Know from him when he shipped the 15 Sets extra, and by what ship. If he wrote to me on that Subject his letter never came to hand. I have had no bills of Lading, and Know not for how much they were insured, if at all ... Do see to this paricularly." Then he takes on a more chatty tone: "We are very hard at work. The weather is as in New York ... quite warm. I would give much to see you all there for one hour or so, but it cannot be just now. So may God preserve and Bless you as I do, and may you have a pleasant and not long passage." And back to business matters: "Make [John] Bachman write about the quadrupeds which he may think wanting ... You will be able to tell all to Victor [Audubon's eldest son], and to send me money ... 200£ will amply suffice ..." He ends the report that "Mamma is quite Well and in good spirits," and asks "When does Havell expect to Leave? ..."
Havell (1793-1878), Audubon's English aquatint engraver, had completed the 435 plates for The Birds of America in 1838, a triumphant moment for Audubon, who had spent the equivalent of $115,640 on its publication. After the completion of the Ornithological Biography, the two convened in America in order to prepare The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, with naturalist John Bachman (1790-1874). The first installment of the work was issued in 1842. Though at times he worked fourteen hours a day on the Quadrupeds, the aging Audubon was unable to finish the intricate details of the drawings which were completed instead by his two sons.