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    The First Octavo Edition of Audubon's "Birds of America"

    John James Audubon. The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories. New York: Published by J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier, 1840-1844.

    First octavo edition. Seven large octavo volumes (10.375 x 6.6875 inches; 264 x 170 mm.). [iii]-viii, [249]-256 ("List of Subscribers"), [2, Introduction], [11]-246; [iii]-vii, [1, blank], [201]-205 ("List of Subscribers Since the Publication of the First Volume"), [1, blank], [2, blank], [11]-199, [1, blank]; [iii]-viii, [9]-233, [1, blank], [1, "Names of Subscribers Obtained Since the Last Volume"], [1, blank]; [iii]-viii, [9]-321, [1, blank], [1, "Names of Subscribers Obtained Since the Last Volume"], [1, blank]; [iii]-viii, [9]-346, [1, "Names of Subscribers Since the Last Volume"], [1, blank]; [iii]-viii, [9]-457, [1, blank], [1, "Names of New Subscribers"], [1, blank]; [iii]-ix, [1, blank], [9]-371, [1, blank], [1, "Names of New Subscribers"], [1, blank] pages. Bound without the half-titles, but with the lists of subscribers. With 500 hand-colored lithographed plates by W. E. Hitchcock, R. Trembley, and others after Audubon, printed and colored by J. T. Bowen of Philadelphia (Plates 1-135 and 151-500) and George Endicott of New York (Plates 136-150). This set appears to have been bound without Plate 17 ("Mississippi Kite"), which should face p. 73 in Volume I, and it has been supplied from another copy. Plate 196 (facing p. 170 in Volume III) misnumbered 160. Woodcuts in the text. A few stab marks visible.

    Contemporary half dark brown leather, ruled in gilt, over marbled boards. Spines decoratively panelled and lettered in gilt in compartments. Edges sprinkled reddish brown. Unfortunately, the binding on this set has seen better days-the spines have all but perished, several boards are detached, the hinges of Volume I have been reinforced with cloth tape, and Volume V has been rebacked with cloth tape. Volume I has a small paper repair (measuring approximately one and a half inches by one and three-quarter inches) to the lower gutter margin of the title, not affecting text. There is some light to moderate foxing, as usual, heavier to the text leaves and tissue guards, and minor thumbsoiling to a few of the plates. Despite these flaws, this is an excellent set and wouild be a good candidate for rebinding, with the plates generally fine and fresh. Bookplate of E. A. Wadsworth, Geneseo, N. Y., on the front pastedown of each volume.

    "The octavo edition of Audubon's Birds was probably the greatest commercial success of any color plate book issued in 19th-century America. While Audubon had become internationally famous in the course of producing the double elephant folio edition of the Birds in London between 1826 and 1839, it was this octavo version, issued at $100, which achieved widespread circulation and brought the work into the homes of many well-to-do Americans. Originally issued in one hundred parts, the set was published over a five-year period and was complete in seven volumes" (William S. Reese, Stamped with a National Character: Nineteenth-Century American Color Plate Books, 34).

    "The purely ornithological text of Audubon's 'Ornithological Biography,' 1831-39, revised and rearranged by the author according to his 'A Synopsis of the Birds of North America,' 1839, with much additional matter but with the 'Delineation of American Scenery and Manner' omitted. The plates are modified copies of those of the original folio, 'The Birds of America,' 1827-38, reduced by camera lucida and lithographed. Some of the backgrounds are entirely changed, others greatly modified, and the original composition is altered so that but one species is represented on a plate. In the case of four species, each occupies two plates, and in one case (pl. 88), the figures of two originals (pll. XXXV and XCV) have been combined on one plate. There are 7 species of the 'Ornithological Biography' and 'Synopsis' which are figured here for the first time and 17 new forms are added in an appendix. The plates are rearranged in accordance with the text and renumbered in sequence to correspond. In Vol. III the names on pll. 187 and 188 are transposed, and curiously enough, this error is perpetuated throughout all the subsequent 8vo editions of the work. This edition, which is the only 8vo published by the author himself, was issued in 100 parts, 14 of which are found in each of Vols. I-VI, and 16 in Vol. VII" (Ayer/Zimmer).

    Ayer/Zimmer, p. 22. Bennett, p. 5. Grolier, 100 American, 45. McGill/Wood, p. 208. Nissen, IVB, 51. Sabin 2364.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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