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General Information, Media Advisory

Rare Books on Scientific Exploration Donated to LSU Libraries Special Collections

12/04/2013 09:53 AM

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Libraries’ Special Collections has received a major donation of rare natural history books. The 79 volumes, valued at more than $200,000, were donated by Tom Taylor, a writer, bookseller and ornithology enthusiast from Fredericksburg, Texas.


Taylor’s gift adds to the library’s already extensive collection of books about ornithology, botany and scientific exploration. Among the volumes donated are several works with illustrations by John Gould and John Gerrard Keulemans, two important 19th-century wildlife illustrators. Many of the books are travel narratives written by naturalists such as Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, whose rare Voyage au Brésil contains numerous illustrations of the native customs and natural environment of Brazil.


Works by women naturalists include “A-Birding on a Bronco” by Florence Merriam, an early advocate for bird conservation. The oldest book in the collection, William Dampier’s “A New Voyage Round the World,” dates from 1703 and contains a map showing the coast of Australia before it had been fully surveyed. Another highlight is a paper, published in 1863 by the English paleontologist Richard Owen, on the first fossil specimen ever discovered of Archaeopteryx, a prehistoric bird thought to be a link between dinosaurs and modern birds.


“This donation is an important addition to our rich holdings in natural history,” said Jessica Lacher-Feldman, head of LSU Libraries Special Collections. “As well as strengthening our collections, the books reflect the library’s mission to preserve rare and unique materials and make them available to students, scholars and the general public.”


On Nov. 16, Taylor participated in Audubon Day, an annual showing of the LSU Libraries’ copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America.” He said it was exciting to see the level of public interest in Audubon’s work as well as works by other ornithological illustrators such as John Gould and Edward Lear, a selection of which was on display at this year’s event.


“Spending a leisurely day looking at Audubon’s magnificent prints is a birding bibliophile’s idea of paradise, and LSU is the only place in America that makes such a thing possible,” Taylor said of his recent visit and his gift to LSU Libraries. “That kind of generosity towards the public is inspiring. I’ve spent many happy and profitable hours using the libraries at LSU, so for me it is a pleasure to add to the already first-rate natural history collection.”


Taylor has had a long relationship with the LSU Libraries. In addition to the current donation, he has donated approximately 50 other books to the university over the years, ranging from natural history books to examples of fine printing and book design. In 2011, he authored a scholarly catalog of rare bird books held by the LSU Libraries. Titled “Aves: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology,” it was published in conjunction with an exhibition held in Hill Memorial Library. The text has also been made available online.


“Aves was a wonderful collaboration,” said Elaine Smyth, interim dean of LSU Libraries. “Tom Taylor has been so generous to the libraries over the years, giving of his time and expertise, as well as wonderful books. We are grateful for his help and ongoing support.”


The donated books are currently being cataloged and will soon be available to the public as part of the E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection. For more information, contact LSU Libraries Special Collections at 225-578-6544 or by email at





Contact Aaron Looney
LSU Media Relations