EXTREMELY SCARCE PROSPECTUS FOR THE DOUBLE ELEPHANT FOLIO OF AUDUBON’S BIRDS OF AMERICA, BOUND WITH VOLUME I OF THE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF THE COMPANION TEXT
AUDUBON, John James. Ornithological Biography, or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America; Accompanied by Descriptions of the Objects Represented in the Work Entitled The Birds of America, and Interspersed with Delineations of American Scenery and Manners. Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1831. Tall octavo, modern half red morocco, raised bands, marbled endpapers. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $3000.
Extremely scarce printed Prospectus for the Double Elephant Folio of Birds of America, bound with Volume I of the first American edition of the companion text to Birds of America.
Ornithological Biography was Audubon's companion text to the engravings in his folio Birds of America. Audubon returned to the United States in September 1831, having earlier shipped copies of Volume I of the Edinburgh edition to his American agent. The text was published separately from the plates to circumvent the British Copyright Act of 1708, which would have required that Audubon deposit nine sets of the expensive plates with English deposit libraries. Audubon's American agent, Dr. Richard Harlan of Philadelphia, was to secure the American copyright and arrange for an American edition. Although Harlan made arrangements with Judah Dobson for publication, he failed to actively promote the work, and sales were weak. Audubon later made arrangements for a subsequent edition of Volume I to be published in 1832 by Carey and Hart of Philadelphia; Volume II was published in Boston in 1832, and the remaining three volumes were all published only in Edinburgh. All versions of Volume I are scarce; Sabin notes, "Vol. I is often missing," (Sabin 2366). Only two copies of the American first edition have appeared at auction in the last 30 years, as compared to 22 copies of the 1831 Edinburgh edition. Fries, in The Double Elephant Folio (1973), recorded 16 known copies of the Prospectus, in six different formats, from a single sheet to a 16-page gathering. Ten additional copies have surfaced since 1973, either as individual items or bound into the 1831 Edinburgh edition of Ornithological Biography. The Prospectus in the present volume is Fries' version E, which comprises 16 pages, including the list of subscribers; there are 14 known copies of this version. When found, version E is usually bound at the end of the first volume of the Edinburgh edition. The copies of the version E Prospectus in the Ayer Ornithological Library at the Field Museum in Chicago and at the Ellis Collection at the University of Kansas (neither listed by Fries) are each bound at the end of Volume I of the Philadelphia 1831 edition, as in this copy. Zimmer, 19. Anker 18. Howes A389.
Embrowning and scattered foxing throughout, attractive binding fine. A very good copy of a rare piece of Americana.