The Missouri River Journals of John James Audubon

The Missouri River Journals of John James Audubon

John James Audubon
Edited and with original commentary by Daniel Patterson

512 pages
45 color illustrations, 1 color map


May 2016


$75.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Historians, biographers, and scholars of John James Audubon and natural history have long been mystified by Audubon’s 1843 Missouri River expedition, for his journals of the trip were thought to have been destroyed by his granddaughter Maria Rebecca Audubon. Daniel Patterson is the first scholar to locate and assemble three important fragments of the 1843 Missouri River journals, and here he offers a stunning transcription and critical edition of Audubon’s last journey through the American West.

Patterson’s new edition of the journals—unknown to Audubon scholars and fans—offers a significantly different understanding of the very core of Audubon’s life and work. Readers will be introduced to a more authentic Audubon, one who was concerned about the disappearance of America’s wild animal species and yet also loved to hunt and display his prowess in the wilderness. This edition reveals that Audubon’s famous late conversion to conservationism on this expedition was, in fact, a literary fiction. Maria Rebecca Audubon created this myth when she rewrote her grandfather’s journals for publication to make him into a visionary conservationist. In reality the journals detail almost gratuitous hunting predations throughout the course of Audubon’s last expedition.

The Missouri River Journals of John James Audubon is the definitive presentation of America’s most famous naturalist on his last expedition and assesses Audubon’s actual environmental ethic amid his conflicted relationship with the natural world he so admired and depicted in his iconic works.

Author Bio

 John James Audubon (1785–1851) is one of America’s premiere wildlife artists. His book The Birds of America is considered one of the greatest picture books ever produced, and his monumental The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America has been hailed as an American classic. Daniel Patterson is a professor of English at Central Michigan University. He is the author and editor of several books, including John James Audubon’s Journal of 1826: The Voyage to “The Birds of America” (Nebraska, 2011) and Early American Nature Writers: A Biographical Encyclopedia.


"Patterson's volume is a model of its kind: meticulous, patient scholarship with some carefully balanced but revealing conclusions of great general interest."—Jeremy Mynott, Times Literary Supplement

“By far the liveliest and most extensive account of Audubon’s late-life trip on the Upper Missouri River.”—John Knott, professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan and author of Imagining Wild America

“With his discovery of a John James Audubon journal long believed to have been intentionally destroyed, Patterson provides new insight into the life of America’s iconic artist and naturalist. An exceptional book.”—William Benemann, author of Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Editorial Principles
Part I. Maria Rebecca Audubon, Her Grandfather’s 1843 Missouri River Journals, and the “Great Auk Speech”
Part II. Audubon’s Missouri River Expedition of 1843
His Eminence
Minnie’s Land to St. Louis, March 11–28
St. Louis, March 28–April 24
St. Louis to the Yellowstone River and Fort Union, April 25–June 12
Fort Union and the Prairies, June 13–August 15
Fort Union to St. Louis, August 16–October 19
St. Louis to Minnie’s Land, October 22–November 7
Part III. The Three Forgotten Manuscript Journals
The Beinecke Partial Copy
The Original Field Notebook and the Newberry Partial Copy
Part IV. Audubon’s Conservation Ethic Reconsidered
Audubon’s Hunting and Conservation Ethic as Represented in the Biographies
The Lived Ethic
The Written Ethic
Part V. Other Materials from the 1843 Expedition
The 1843 Diary of John Graham Bell
The 1843 Diary of Isaac Sprague
Audubon’s “George Catlin” Powder Horn from the Missouri River Expedition
Appendix: “The Pet Bear,” an Unpublished Episode
Works Cited

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