John James Audubon is best known for The Birds of America, a book of 435 images, portraits of every bird then known in the United States - painted and reproduced in the size of life. Its creation cost Audubon eighteen years of monumental effort in finding the birds, making the book, and selling it to subscribers. Audubon also wrote thousands of pages about birds (Ornithological Biography); he'd completed half of a collection of paintings of mammals (The Viviparous Quadrapeds of North America) when his eyesight failed in 1846. His story is a dramatic and surprising one. Audubon was not born in America, but saw more of the North American continent than virtually anyone alive, and even in his own time he came to exemplify America - the place of wilderness and wild things.