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A Scottish immigrant, Wilson wrote and illustrated the first series of books devoted solely to American birds. His American Ornithology, published in nine volumes between 1808 and 1814, predated Audubon’s Birds of America by 19 years.
Wilson had such strong support from the natural science community in Philadelphia that when Audubon arrived there seeking backing for his own ambitious publishing project, he met with resistance and was forced to produce his project across the Atlantic.
Wilson’s engravings characteristically portray several species, grouped on one plate and shown in profile.