The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.

New York & Philadelphia: J. J. Audubon and [vols. I-V] J. B. Chevalier, 1839-40-44.

Price: $85,000.00

About the item

First octavo edition. 500 hand-coloured lithographic plates after Audubon by W. E. Hitchcock, R. Trembley and others, printed by J. T. Bowen of Philadelphia (plates 1-135, 151-500) or George Endicott of New York (plates 136-150), numerous wood-engraved anatomical figures in text. 7 vols. Royal octavo (250 x 147 mm). Recently rebound to style in black half morocco, gilt panelled spines with owl and eagle motifs, contemporary marbled sides, speckled edges, endleaves renewed. A few plates trimmed by the binder with concomitant shaving of a few captions (encroaching on the plate itself in only one instance). An excellent set. Bennett p. 5; Nissen IVB 51; Ripley 13; Sabin 2364; Zimmer p. 22. Ron Tyler, Audubon's Great National Work (1993) Appendix I.

Item #352476

First octavo edition of Audubon's “Great National Work”, the first complete edition and the first American edition; the original double-elephant folio was published in Edinburgh and London between 1827 and 1838. A very handsome set, the plates clean and fresh, of the “most beautiful, popular, and important natural history books published in America in the nineteenth century... representing the best of pre-Civil War American lithography and giving Audubon the opportunity finally to display his scholarship and genius to a large American audience for the first time” (Ron Tyler).

The plates, here accompanied by the text for the first time, were reduced and variously modified from the Havell engravings in the double-elephant folio. Seven new species are figured and seventeen others, previously described in the Ornithological Biography but not illustrated, are pictured for the first time. Audubon may have been prompted to publish the reduced version of his double-elephant folio by the appearance in 1839 of John Kirk Townsend's rival Ornithology of the United States, or, as he writes in the introduction to the present work, he may have succumbed to public demand and his wish that a work similar to his large work should be published but “at such a price, as would enable every student or lover of nature to place it in his Library”.

The first edition of the octavo work now represents the only realistic opportunity that exists for private collectors to own an entire collection of Audubon images in a form that was overseen and approved by the great artist himself.