[Prints] Audubon, John James
The Birds of America, From Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories
New York: J.J. Audubon/Philadelphia: J.B. Chevalier, 1840-44. In seven volumes. First edition. 8vo. Including subscriber's list at rear of each volume; lacking half-titles. Illustrated with 500 hand-colored lithographic plates (with tissue guards), after Audubon, by W.E. Hitchcock, R. Trembly, and others, as well as numerous in-text and full-page wood engravings; printed and colored by J.T. Bowen. Contemporary full green morocco, some volumes expertly rebacked, edges and spines browned, joints rubbed, minor wear to extremities, 1-inch tear at head of spine of first volume, blistering on spine of seventh volume, upper rear hinge cracked on same, decoratively stamped in gilt and in blind; all edges gilt; gilt dentelles; scattered light to moderate foxing to text in each volume, scattered mostly minor foxing to plates, repair on pp. 107/108 in third volume, split in gutter at pp. 123 in same, gutter worn at p. 313 in seventh volume. Reese 34; Sabin 2364.
A handsome first edition set of John J. Audubon's royal octavo edition of the "Birds of America". Audubon began planning this smaller and more affordable version of his ornithological masterpiece while in England supervising the final stages of his elephant folio edition. The newer edition was similarly sold via subscription, in 100 hundred parts of five plates each, costing a total of $100 (close to $3,000 in today's money). Issued over a five year period (1840-44), the set includes 65 images not present in the first elephant folio. Compositions were also reworked to contain a single species per plate, while background sceneries were at timess drastically simplified. Unlike its predecessor, the seven volumes are organized in a more rigorous manner, and the accompanying descriptive text was reworked, notably with the omission of "Delineation of American Scenery and Manner". The images were reduced in size by Audubon's son, John Woodhouse Audubon, using a camera lucida, and were printed in Philadelphia by John T. Bowen and his assistants, under the direct supervision of Audubon. The edition proved to be a great success, "probably the greatest commercial success of any color plate book issued in 19th-century America" (Reese, 34).
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