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E. A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection

In 1971, the LSU Libraries acquired by gift the natural history portion of the library of Edward Avery McIlhenny (1872-1949), scion of the prominent Louisiana family which since 1868 has produced the world-famous Tabasco hot pepper sauce. President of the family enterprise, McIlhenny was also a well-known conservationist who established a bird sanctuary and botanical garden on the family properties at Avery Island, Louisiana. McIlhenny’s nephew, the late John Stauffer McIlhenny, donated this collection to LSU in 1971. Since then, it has been further developed and is now one of the most prestigious of its kind, with particular strengths in New World botanical and ornithological illustration.

Among the more notable works in the collection are the elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America, Mark Catesby's The Natural History of Carolina, John Gould's Hummingbirds, Edward Lear's Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, and Sir Joseph Banks' Florilegium. Recent acquisitions include an archive of 32 original pencil drawings—thirteen in Audubon's own hand—associated with the production of the Royal Octavo edition of Birds of America. More than 220 illustrations of native Louisiana plants commissioned by Louisiana State University and created by distinguished botanical artist Margaret Stones are also a part of the McIlhenny Collection.

Although many items have been added since its publication, Nature Classics: A Catalogue of the E.A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection (1987) is a good introduction to LSU’s holdings as well as to the history of scientific illustration in general. A second catalog, Aves: A Survey of the Literature of Neotropical Ornithology (2011), describes the library’s collection of books related to the birds of the American tropics. The printed catalog is also available as an online exhibition.