Audubon's Four Striped Ground Squirrels

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John James Audubon (1785-1851), Tamias Quadrivittatus, Striped Ground Squirrel, 1841. Two pen and watercolor drawings. Gifts of John Stanton Williams, Class of 1925. GC154 John James Audubon Collection. Drawn for Audubon’s Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. No. 5, Plate 24 (below).

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The last ten years of Audubon’s life were spent documenting four-legged mammals. He traveled up the Missouri River and around the Southern United States with his collaborator, Reverend Dr. John Bachman (1790-1874). The original folio edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-1848) contains 150 colored lithographs executed by the British engraver John T. Bowen (1801-ca. 1856), working in Philadelphia. These prints were made after watercolor drawings, about half of which are the work of Audubon and the other half were by his son, John Woodhouse Audubon (1812-1862).

Two drawings for the Striped Ground Squirrel were completed in May 1841 (the final plate combined them into one image of four squirrels). Audubon noted, “We met with this species as we were descending the Upper Missouri … we saw it first on a tree; afterwards we procured both old and young among the sandy gulleys and clay cliffs, on the sides of the ravines near one of our encampments.”

This drawing comes to Princeton thanks to John Stanton Williams (1902-1982, Class of 1925), who also donated Audubon’s shotgun. Mr. Williams was the founder of the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, N.Y. and an ardent collector of Audubon’s work.

Often overshadowed by Birds of North America, the imperial folio edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America is a scholarly and artistically beautiful work. It was not until 1952 that Quadrupeds came to Princeton University as a gift from Edwin N. Benson, Jr. Class of 1899 and Mrs. Benson, in memory of their son Peter Benson, Class of 1938. Our copy of the first edition (three volumes) was bound at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, stamped M.P.

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Dear Dr Melby,
I will be visiting Princeton March 13-15, and I am wondering if it would be possible to see Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America while I am there. Thank you very much for your consideration of my request.
Best Wishes,
Nancy Weintraub, MD
Professor of Medicine
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA