AUDUBON, John James and Rev. John BACHMAN. The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. New York: J.J. Audubon (-V.G. Audubon), 1845-.
Two atlas volumes, "elephant" broadsheets (688 x 545 mm) and 3 volumes text, royal 8o (267 x 178 mm). Two lithographic title-pages (without the third as often) and 3 leaves of letterpress contents at end of volume two. Manuscript presentation leaf (see below). (Titles and presentation leaf backed with linen repairing a few tears and creases, some foxing to titles and contents leaves.) 150 hand-colored lithographic plates after John James and John Woodhouse Audubon, the backgrounds after Victor Audubon, by J.T. Bowen (Plates 1 and 76 backed with linen repairing creases and old tears and with some soiling at edges, plate 2 with crease crossing image repaired on verso, plate 4 short and possibly supplied from another copy, plate 25 with repaired tear in upper corner, plate 29 with long repaired tear, plate 88 caption slightly trimmed, plate 102 with 5-in. tear crossing image repaired on verso, plate 127 with 3-in. and 6-in. tears crossing plate number and image repaired on verso, plate 143 with some marginal fingersoiling, plate 144 with 18-in. tear crossing image repaired on verso, plate 146 with 2-in. tear repaired on verso). Near contemporary russia gilt, front covers with gilt-lettered presentation to Andrew G. Curtin (worn and rubbed, leather lacking on front cover of volume two, rebacked in morocco); text bound to match (rebacked, repairs at corners).
Provenance: Andrew G. Curtin (1817-1894), Governor of Pennsylvania during the Civil War (presentation on bindings: "From the Loyal Citizens of New Jersey to His Excellency Andrew G. Curtin The Loyal Governor of Pennsylvania"; manuscript presentation leaf, giving the volumes to Curtin in honor of his reelection and his "untiring devotion to the soldiers in the field and kind care of those in Hospitals in your own State." They presented "Audubon's great National work The Birds and Quadrupeds of North America" on the date of his second inauguration, 19 January 1864. The leaf bears the calligraphic signatures of 56 citizens).
FIRST EDITION, WITH A FINE AMERICAN PROVENANCE
At the same time Audubon was producing the commercially-successful octavo edition of his masterpiece, The Birds of America, he and his sons began production of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, an elephant folio of 150 lithographs meant to match the lavishness of the Birds. Unlike the double-elephant folio Birds, the Quadrupeds was produced entirely in the United States, making it the "largest single color plate book to be carried to a successful conclusion during the century [in this country]" (Reese). It took the Audubon family five years to publish the 150 plates and there were at that time three hundred subscribers.
The book was the product of Audubon's collaboration with John Bachman, a pastor who had studied quadrupeds since he was a young man and who was recognized as an authority on the subject in the United States. Audubon knew Bachman's contribution was critical, and endeavored to convince his friend to push aside his apprehensions about the project. Audubon, ever the energetic and ferocious creator, even when, as he wrote Bachman, "My Hair are grey and I am growing old," felt that the Quadrupeds could be his last outstanding achievement in natural history. The cautious Bachman felt Audubon was hurrying a project about whose subject he felt "we have much to learn." Bachman finally relented, however, assured that the project would not be hastily produced. Bachman's one condition was that all of the expenses, and the profits, were to be the Audubons, "I am anxious to do something for the benefit of Victor and John [Woodhouse]." Thus engaged, he urged Audubon: "Employ yourself now in drawing every quadruped you can lay your hands upon."
During the course of their collaboration, tragedy struck the two men with the deaths of Bachman's daughters Maria and Eliza, who were also the wives of Audubon's sons John Woodhouse and Victor. The loss put a great strain on the relationship, but Audubon tried to heal the wound by dedicating himself with vigor to his Quadrupeds. Audubon had promised Bachman "the very best figures of all our quadrupeds that have ever been thought of or expected," and indeed Bachman was impressed with the results. While the result was not on the scale of the Birds, the Quadrupeds contains the most sumptuous depiction of the mammals of North America produced, and firmly established Audubon as the age's great natural history artist.
The work originally appeared in thirty numbers with five plates each, with each number costing ten dollars. The success of the octavo edition of the Birds allowed Audubon enough funds to underwrite the printing of the Quadrupeds and to move to the country. The work was to be Audubon's last, and the bickering between Audubon and Bachman, mainly over points of accuracy and detail, continued to the end. With Audubon's eyesight failing, he was not able to see well enough to draw by 1846. He had completed half of the illustrations to the Quadrupeds but by this time was not in a condition to carry on. The completion of the project passed to his two sons, and with Audubon's mental condition weakening, they tried to keep his state out of public notice, in some part to prevent bad publicity from hurting the sales of the Quadrupeds. Audubon remained in a mostly incoherent state until he died on 27 January 1851. (See Shirley Streshinsky, Audubon: Life and Art in the American Wilderness, 1993.)
WITH A FINE PROVENANCE: Andrew Gregg Curtin had campaigned for Harrison in 1840, for Clay in 1844, for Taylor in 1848 and for Scott in 1852. As Republican Governor of Pennsylvania from 1861 to 1867, he secured the state's support for the Union, established the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps and devoted himself to the welfare of the state's soldiers.
Bennett, p.5; McGill/Wood, p.208; Nissen ZBI 162; Reese 36; Sabin 2367. (5)