A plate of an American flamingo from John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America”; a Johannes Ruysch map, the first obtainable one to depict America; and a watercolor of New York at night by artist Rudolf Daniel Ludwig Cronau are just some of the many items that will be on auction this Wednesday at the Arader Galleries on the Upper East Side. The combined value of all of the items: an estimated $20 million.

Graham Arader, the owner of the gallery, will be donating 25% of the proceeds to support programs at eight universities that offer courses teaching students about world history and science through the study of early modern maps, art prints and books—pieces just like those on the auction block. (Alternatively, he’ll donate 10% of the price of a piece to the buyer’s charity of choice.) “I asked myself: How do we get kids infected with the same passion that I’ve got?” Mr. Arader, who is 62, said. “I want a 19-year-old kid to say ‘wow’ when he sees this stuff.”

For more than 20 years, Mr. Arader has been working to get historic maps and artwork of the natural world in classrooms for students to study.