(New York: J. J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J. B. Chevalier, 1840-44). 262 x 165 mm. (10 5/8 x 6 5/8"). Seven volumes. FIRST EDITION in the Octavo Format, bound from the original parts.
Original black morocco by P. Low of Boston (ticket on front pastedown), covers with gilt-rule border, very expertly rebacked replicating the original gilt rules and lettering, raised bands, all edges gilt, original tissue guards (some neat restorations to edges of boards). WITH THE 500 CELEBRATED HAND-FINISHED COLOR LITHOGRAPH PLATES OF AMERICAN BIRDS, all with original tissue guards. Ayer / Zimmer 22; Wood, p. 208; Reese, American Color Plate Books, 34; Bennett, p. 5; Nissen IVB 51; Sabin 2364. Trivial spots or vague abrasions to boards, very isolated minimal foxing or smudging to text (a handful of plates thus affected at margins, but these minor blemishes of no consequence whatsoever), infrequent offsetting onto (but never through) tissue guards (a sign of successful prevention rather than imperfection). AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY of a book difficult to find even close to this good, the very expertly restored bindings entirely convincing and appealing on the shelf, the contents clean and fresh, and THE PLATES ESPECIALLY BRIGHT, WITH BEAUTIFUL COLORING.
This is an outstandingly clean, bright copy of one of the key books in any natural history library and one of the great books in the history of American publishing. The story of the conception and creation of Audubon's monumental achievement, the double elephant folio "Birds of America," is the stuff of legend. Its hero--the illegitimate son of a French sailor and his Creole mistress--was a man with little education or formal training in art, scant aptitude for business, and excellent taste in wives. Alan Thomas tells us that Audubon (1785-1851) "made a wonderfully fortunate choice when he married Lucy Bakewell," the eldest daughter of his neighbor in Pennsylvania. After a series of disastrous business ventures, "his splendid wife insisted that his lifelong passion for ornithology and the painting of birds . . . should become [his] raison d'être," and after much travail and sacrifice by both parties, the publication of Audubon's elephant folio (1827-38) was indeed a triumph. But, of course, a work nearly as big as a door with life-size ornithological images was outside the financial reach of nearly all book buyers, necessitating the publication of the present smaller format version, which was greeted with immense approval (Reese calls it "probably the greatest commercial success of any color plate book issued in 19th-century America"). Although the illustrations are obviously reduced, they nevertheless are always characterized by pleasing composition, almost always characterized by a convincing verisimilitude, and not infrequently characterized by a richness and intensity of coloration. The condition of the octavo "Birds" is always problematic, given the fact that it was issued in 100 fascicles (each containing five plates) over a period of five years to satisfy the orders of more than 1,000 subscribers. Under circumstances like these, the nature and quality of paper varied, and certain fascicles tend to show up from set to set as having the same flaws. Even for an obsessive collector, the present copy is remarkable for its exceptionally clean, bright plates. And although the spines here have been renewed, they were redone with such authenticity and remarkable skill that they are as pleasing as they are convincing. (CJI2103)
Add to Cart Price: $110,000.00
PJP Catalog: 79.067