SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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April 4, 2013

Heard Around Town: Rare treat on tap for Peabody’s For the Birds Gala

PEABODY — When John James Audubon created “The Birds of America,” it was the ultimate “hands-on” project. Not only did he provide the painted images, but he oversaw the printing process and the work of artisans who painstakingly colored the images.

Less than 200 sets were sent out to mostly wealthy collectors. The Peabody Institute Library has one of those treasured books, purchased by benefactor Eliza Sutton and given to the library in 1871.

You can see some of the prints restored and displayed at the library on a regular basis. But if you have a ticket to the library’s $100-a-head For the Birds Gala tomorrow, you can also see something even more rare, an unexpected addition to an event that has already sold 85 out of 100 tickets.

After Audubon’s death, when times got tough for his widow, she sold off the copper plates used to print the pictures for their value in metal. But apparently not all of them reached the scrap heap, says library trustee Anne Quinn.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Museum of American Bird Art will bring one of the few surviving copper plates containing images that the artist himself created — hands-on — as he directed the engravers. Moreover, Quinn says, the library will also display its version of the print produced by that very plate.

“I’m really excited about it,” she says.

In addition, the evening will include an appearance by David Allen Sibley, author of “The Sibley Guide to Birds.” The gala will also feature music, drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

All the profits earned will go toward the continuing preservation of Peabody’s precious Audubon prints.

Drop those clothes

Yes, warm weather will come eventually. You can shuck off all those excess clothes. And since you won’t be wearing them, you’re welcome to toss some of them into drop boxes around the city. It’s all part of the Higgins Cares Peabody Clothing Drive, an effort mounted by kids, teachers and staff at Higgins Middle School.

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