Not too far from where I live, in Marietta, Ohio, is published a monthly periodical, founded by a local couple, which is considered the premier source for the legions of amateur and professional ornithologist in this country. It's called The Bird Watcher's Digest. Today we take this rather refined, outdoorsy hobbyist for granted and sometimes even make jokes about them, but for those taken with the frolics and fortunes of our fine, feathered friends, the magazine is like their bible. They take their avocation very seriously. Not surprisingly, their patron saint was an artist.

Audubon was born in 1785 on the Caribbean Island of Haiti. As a teenager, he moved to Philadelphia to manage some family properties, which he was never very good at. He was 37 when he first decided to combine his two hobbies, birds and painting. For the next sixteen years he traveled from Florida to Labrador and west well into Texas waiting, watching, sketching, and ultimately painting. Fortunately, he'd had the foresight to solicit subscriptions amongst his bird-watching friends to support his ornithologic vice. He completed some 435 studies in detailed watercolors. His painted compositions were exciting and often lighthearted. Upon his return, he enlisted the help of London printmaker, Robert Havell, in using the aquatint process to reproduce his work. The larger areas of neutral colors were inked on the plates whille the other colors were added by hand on the prints themselves. It was a costly process. In all, Audubon invested the then astronomical sum of $100,000 in the project. However, he was well rewarded for his work and financial risk. Between 1840 and 1844, 2000 sets of prints were sold at $1000 EACH. Do the math.