Trinity College is Nest for Birders

Extremely Rare John James Audubon ‘Birds of America’ Book is Right at Home
Hartford, Conn. – Dec. 2, 2011 -- It’s official.  Birds have taken over Trinity College.  In November, Trinity highlighted its copy of Birds of America, by John James Audubon, one of the world’s rarest books, by putting it center stage in the Watkinson Library in a new protective glass case.  Trinity’s copy is particularly special, as it was donated by Gurdon Wadsworth Russell, an 1834 graduate of Trinity, in 1900, and originally owned by Robert Havell, the English engraver of the series.  The project took 11 years for Audubon and Havell to finish, and was printed on double elephant folio sheets, which is the largest paper ever used for a book.  There were only 180 copies of Birds of America produced, and just 119 are known to have survived.  In a December 2011 auction in England, a copy sold for $11.6 million.
​A page from Trinity's copy of "Birds of America," by John James Audubon.  For more:
​(photo by Nick Lacy)
“Trinity’s set is in really great shape,” Christoph Irmscher, professor of English at Indiana University and a noted Audubon expert, said after spending some time with the set and presenting a talk on the book at Trinity.  “The binding is in very good condition, and it being Havell’s set makes it particularly valuable.”  Listen to Irmscher’s talk at Trinity:

Irmscher’s visit marked the official opening of the new display of Trinity’s copy of Birds of America, and was a celebration of Trinity’s recent acquisition of the American Flamingo, which replaced the plate that was stolen from the set 35 years ago.  Once a week, Richard Ring, head curator at the Watkinson Library, will turn a page in the book, until all of the pages have been turned.   It will take 8.5 years for all of the pages to be turned, when the process will begin again in 2020.  For a breakdown of the opening event by Richard Ring, click the following link:  View photos from the opening and of the book here:

Earlier this semester, the Watkinson Library on the campus of Trinity, opened Searching the Skies, Searching the Stacks: Bird Field Guides in the Watkinson Library, an exhibition of Trinity’s extensive collection of bird field guides.  The exhibition ran through November 30.  The Watkinson Library is a separately endowed unit of the Trinity College Library.  It serves as a public research library, the rare book & special collections department of Trinity College, and the repository of the College Archives.

Mary Jordan ’11, who curated the exhibition, was unaware of the Watkinson’s subject specialty when she began working there during her junior year at Trinity. “We received requests for articles daily on obscure topics about birds I never knew existed,” Jordan said. “I did not have any special interest in birds before working at the Watkinson, but I was amazed by how large the collection of field guides the library has.”

Joan Morrison, professor of biology at Trinity and a noted bird and wildlife enthusiast, has long worked with birds on the Trinity campus and around the world.  Her research entails studying birds living in human-impacted landscapes.  Ongoing research projects include a study of Red-tailed Hawks living in the urban environments of Hartford, CT, and monitoring a population of Crested Caracaras in Florida. 

She has also examined the structure of avian communities in urban parks in Hartford.  Morrison recently joined a panel at Trinity, entitled Birds!, featuring Ciaran Berry, assistant professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Trinity, and Patrick Comins (Trinity ’90), Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Connecticut.  Michael Preston, professor of theater and dance, moderated the event.  The panel was based on two bird-related readings: Jonathan Franzen's My Bird Problem (New Yorker, 2005) and Anne Mathews' Wall Street Losses, Wall Street Gains (Orion, 2001).  Both are available for download at   To listen to the Birds! panel, visit:

In addition, students from the CREC Montessori School, working alongside  Trinity College students enrolled in the InterArts Program, recently held their opening art exhibition at the Broad Street Gallery, with a theme of birds.  The exhibition is entitled “Brids and Landscapes” and features work only by the CREC students.  For a photo gallery from the opening, visit:

For more on Trinity’s Birds of America set, visit:, or go to Trinity College’s main website at