AUDUBON’S BIRDS OF AMERICA, FINAL OCTAVO EDITION, WITH 500 HAND-COLORED PLATES: “ONE OF THE FINEST ORNITHOLOGICAL WORKS EVER PRINTED”
AUDUBON, John James. The Birds of America from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories. New York: George R. Lockwood, Late Roe Lockwood & Son, [1870-71]. Eight volumes. Royal octavo, publisher’s full brown morocco, elaborately decorated in blind, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt.
Lockwood Audubon, the final octavo edition, containing 500 superb tinted and hand-colored lithographic plates printed by J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia, with numerous in-text anatomical wood-engravings. An lovely set, bright and fine in handsome publisher’s morocco bindings.
One of the most spectacular collections of ornithological prints ever produced and a landmark attempt to document the birds of North America. “The most splendid book ever produced in relation to America, and certainly one of the finest ornithological works ever printed… Audubon insisted on drawing from life, never from stuffed specimens, and was much in advance of his time in portraying the birds (in many cases unrecorded species) in their natural surroundings… The courage and faith of the Audubon family is breathtaking… This immense undertaking, this unparalleled achievement, was not the production of a great and long-established publishing house, nor was it backed by a wealthy institution. It was the work of a man of relentless energy, with no private fortune… It is a story without equal in the whole history of publishing” (Great Books and Book Collectors, 210-13). The second and subsequent octavo editions differed most notably from the first octavo in the addition of tinted lithographic-wash backgrounds to the plates. “The lithographs in all of the later editions are identical and of the same value” (Clark and Bannon, Handbook of Audubon Prints). This is the final octavo edition, issued by Lockwood in 1870-1871 and here bearing the original 1839 Audubon copyright statement on the verso of the title pages. Sometime afterwards, the octavo lithographic stones were destroyed when a floor collapsed in the Philadelphia warehouse where they were stored (Tyler, Audubon’s Great National Work, 129, 165 note). Bound with half titles. Plates 155 and 156 bound in reverse order, but present. Zimmer, 25-26. Nissen IVB 52. Anker 19n. Sabin 2364. See Grolier 45. Early owner ink signature to half titles.
Interiors fine, plates bright and beautiful, hand-coloring vivid; minor expert restoration to one spine head. A lovely set in the original publisher’s morocco in about-fine condition.