Birds of America at the Toronto Public Library
John James Audubon’s Birds of America is one of the Toronto Public Library’s greatest treasures.
In 1903, Chief Librarian Dr. James Bain purchased a copy from the estate of the Honorable George William Allan, Toronto’s eleventh mayor.
At the time, Allen was the only individual in Canada to have a copy – and rumour has it that he bought his set directly from Audubon himself.
The library's copy was originally a four-volume set, bound in brown leather with marbled endpapers.
From 1986 to 1989, we carefully disbound the books in order to preserve the individual plates. They were at risk of deterioration due to the wear-and-tear caused by turning such large pages.
In 1996, Canada Trust made a generous donation that has helped to ensure that the Birds of America will remain in the library’s care.
Now known as the TD Audubon Collection, the individual plates are stored in custom-made boxes in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Center for Special Collections Centre at the Toronto Reference Library.
You can now explore all of the images from Birds of America on our Digital Archive.