AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and their Territories. New York: J.J. Audubon; Philadelphia: J.B. Chevalier, [1839-] 1840-1844.
BOUND FROM THE ORIGINAL PARTS in 7 volumes, royal 8o (267 x 170 mm). Half-titles, subscribers' lists. 500 hand-colored lithographed plates after Audubon by W.E. Hitchcock, R. Trembly and others, printed and colored by J.T. Bowen, wood-engraved anatomical diagrams in text (some occasional pale offsetting on plates, some occasional spotting to plates and text). 19th-century red morocco gilt, spines gilt, top edges gilt (spines darkened, some minor rubbing along joints and edges); ORIGINAL PRINTED FRONT AND BACK WRAPPERS BOUND IN at end of each volume (lacking rear wrapper to part 14, lacking both wrappers to part 71, rear wrapper to part 73 backed, front wrapper to part 98 repaired with some loss of text, some spotting). Provenance: Mrs. Marshall Field IV, Marshall Field V, by gift to the present owner.
A VERY TALL COPY PRESERVING MOST OF THE ORIGINAL PRINTED WRAPPERS
FIRST OCTAVO EDITION of John James Audubon's masterpiece. The rear wrappers of the original parts provide a prospectus for the octavo edition, including five "particulars of the plan": "1. The size of the work is royal octavo, the paper being of the finest quality. 2. The Plates representing the Birds are correctly reduced from the original drawings, and are coloured in the most careful manner. 3. The work will appear in numbers, on the first and fifteenth of every month. 4. Each number will consist of Five Plates, accompanied with full descriptions of the habits and localities of the birds, their anatomy and digestive organs, (with occasionally wood cuts representing the latter,) and will be furnished to subscribers for one dollar, payable on delivery. 5. The work will be published in accordance with a scientific arrangement of the genera and species, and will complete the Ornithology of our country, it is believed, in the most perfect manner."
Audubon created 65 new images for the octavo edition, supplementing the original 435 of the double-elephant folio edition of 1827-38. The resulting series of 500 plates constitute the most extensive American color-plate book produced up to that time. The Philadelphia printer J.T. Bowen reduced the double-elephant plates by camera lucida and the resulting lithographs show significant changes in the backgrounds and compositions. The original configurations were altered so that only one species is depicted per plate. The text is a revision of the Ornithological Biography, rearranged according to Audubon's "A Synopsis of the Birds of North America" (1839).
COPIES PRESERVING THE ORIGINAL WRAPPERS ARE EXTREMELY RARE. Ayer/Zimmer, p.22; Bennett, p.5; McGill/Wood, p.208; Nissen IVB 51; Sabin 2364.