The Birds of America from Original Drawings by John James Audubon
Sotheby’s is delighted to be offering an early subscriber's copy of Audubon's "Double Elephant Folio"—incomparably the most important and most beautiful color-plate book ever published, containing 435 magnificant handcolored etched plates, depicting in life size 1,065 birds representing 489 supposed species. This is an unusually large and brilliantly colored copy, with the plates in very early state: all ten first plates are engraved by Lizars alone, prior to retouching by Havell, Jr., and 141 of Low’s 150 variable plates are present in the first state.
Audubon’s Birds of America has long been regarded as one of the greatest books ever produced and perhaps the greatest contribution ever made of art in the service of science. In Fine Bird Books, Sacheverell Sitwell proclaimed that “There is nothing in the world of fine books quite like the first discovery of Audubon. The giant energy of the man, and his power of achievement and accomplishment, give to him something of the epical force of a Walt Whitman or a Herman Melville. … Audubon is the greatest of bird painters; he belongs to American history, and as a writer he described things that human eyes will never see again.”
The later lithographed “octavo” editions of The Birds of America and The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America are considerable triumphs in their own right. But the name Audubon will ever conjure up images of the Double Elephant Folio: it is sole and incomparable, as much a natural wonder as the remarkable birds it depicts.
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