A Fine Facsimile of Audubon's Massive "Birds of America" In Magnificent Elaborately Gilt Red Morocco Bindings


(New York: Abbeville Press, 1985). Plate volumes: 1000 x 672 mm. (39 3/8 x 26 1/2"); text volumes: 266 x 177 mm. (10 1/2 x 7"). Four volumes of plates and seven text volumes. FACSIMILE EDITION. ONE OF 350 SETS of the National Audubon Society copy produced in a collaboration between the Society and the Abbeville Press.

Plate volumes IN SPECTACULAR RED MOROCCO, EXTRAVAGANTLY GILT, BY COURTLAND BENSON, covers with elaborate frame composed of multiple decorative rolls, one of these featuring cornucopia and birds in flight, raised bands, spine compartments with large central fleuron surrounded by small tools, floral sprays at corners, gilt lettering. Text volumes in original emerald green leather with ornate gilt embellishment. With 435 excellent colored plates reproducing those in size and color from the double-folio first edition. ◆In mint condition.

This is a fine facsimile of one of the great books in the history of American publishing, offered here in bindings of memorable magnificence. 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 double-elephant folio (1827-38) was indeed a triumph. The plates here are printed in up to 18 colors for each illustration on acid-free, dyed paper watermarked with the insignia and names of the Audubon Society and the Abbeville Press. The volumes are a compelling alternative to a work that now is staggeringly expensive: a single plate from the original Audubon double-elephant folio sold at auction in 2021 for $15,000 hammer, and the last full set of the original issue to appear at auction sold at Sotheby's in 2019 for $5,600,000 hammer. The quality of workmanship on the bindings is unsurpassably fine, and the breathtaking scale of the immense set emphasizes the supreme talent of the gifted Canadian binder Courtland Benson. Beginning in 1974, he has studied with such master binders as Barbara Hiller, Bernard Middleton, David Sellars, Donald Glaister, Michael Wilcox, and James Brockman. In 1993, he began to make his own tools based on research into decorative styles of bookbinding from 1450 to 1850. There is no binder in North America who currently makes more convincing replica bindings than he does, and the present vast piece of work is notably impressive.

Price: $75,000.00