Carrie S. Beinecke Copy of The Birds of America

The Beinecke Library, opened in October 1963, was the gift to Yale University of three alumni — Edwin J. Beinecke, 1907; Frederick W. Beinecke, 1909S; Walter Beinecke, 1910 — and their families, who intended it as “a symbol of the loyalty and devotion of three brothers” and as “a source of learning and…an inspiration to all who enter.” At the Library’s founding and since, members of the extended Beinecke family have donated extraordinary book and manuscript collections to enrich the Library’s holdings. 

Carrie S. Beinecke, with her husband Frederick “Fritz” Beinecke, donated the Frederick W. & Carrie S. Beinecke  Collection of Western Americana (read more).  Carrie’s personal library also included a copy of the four volumes of The Birds of America. Though knowing scholars and friends of the Beinecke Library have occasionally assumed that Carrie’s copy is one of two in the Beinecke Library’s collections, this is not the case (the provenance of both Beinecke Library copies is well known and documented: read more).

Rare Book Hub records indicate that Carrie and Fritz Beinecke acquired their copy of The Birds of America from bookseller H.P. Kraus in 1959 and consigned it to  Christie’s for public auction in 1977 (detailed provenance from initial 19th century subscription).  The copy subsequently passed through several owners before the volumes were broken and individual prints were auctioned in a controversial sale at Sotheby’s in June of 1983 (read more).

Record of the Carries S. Beinecke copy has become muddled by occasional confusion between “Beinecke” referring to the family or its individual members and “Beinecke Library” referring to the institution they founded. In his often cited work The Double Elephant Folio: The Story of Audubon’s Birds of America, scholar Waldemar H. Fries refers to the copy in a list of owners and dates associated with “Complete Sets Broken Up” as: “Beinecke / Original Owner-Subscriber: Mrs. Ford. 1983.” And a Rare Book Hub record for the 2019 sale of a copy of plate 66 (Ivory-Billed Woodpecker) incorrectly includes the Beinecke Library among the previous owners noted in its provenance with a transfer date around the time of the 1980s auction of the Carries S. Beinecke copy (read more).

–George Miles, William Robertson Coe Curator of Western Americana at Beinecke Library, July 2021


Provenance of the Carrie S. Beinecke Copy until 1977 (from Rare Book Hub)

1. Probably Mrs. Ford, from Philadelphia, number 22 of Audubon’s final list of subscribers
2. William Schott, 1522 Pine Street Philadelphia. Sold by the administrator for his estate, Guy Bryan Schott, in December 1865 to
3. George S. Stephenson, who presented it to
4. The Long Island Historical Society in 1866. Sold in 1958 to
5. H.P. Kraus, New York City. In his Catalogue 90. Sold in 1959 through Eberstadt & Sons to
6. Frederick William Beinecke


Frederick W. & Carrie S. Beinecke  Collection of Western Americana

Curator’s note about the Frederick W. & Carrie S. Beinecke  Collection of Western Americana and other core materials in the Beinecke Library Western Americana Collection

View the 1965 published catalog of the collection


About the 1983 Sotheby’s auction

Rita Reif, “Audubon Prints Stir,” New York Times, June 12, 1983

“Birds of a Feather Unflocked,” Art in Print Review, 14.4, 1983

Sotheby’s Audubon Auction Catalog, June 16-71, 1983


Other Resources

Rare Book Hub Source Record Number: N10003-1090 – Audubon Plate 66 Ivory Billed Woodpecker, 2019 sale


Note: resources linked above my require login with a Yale NetID.


Image: Carrie (Caroline) Sperry Beinecke, 1907