AUDUBON, John James Laforest (1785-1851). The Birds of America, from Drawings made in the United States and their Territories. New York and Philadelphia: E.G. Dorsey for J.J. Audubon and [vols I-V] J.B. Chevalier, [1839-]1840-1844.
100 parts bound in 7 volumes, 8° (258 x 159mm). Half-titles, blank I, 37/2, and 18pp. subscribers' lists. 500 hand-coloured lithographic plates by W.E. Hitchcock, R. Trembley and others after Audubon, printed by J.T. Bowen, Philadelphia [plates 1-135 and 151-500] and George Endicott, New York [plates 136-150], some heightened with gum arabic, tissue guards. Numerous wood-engraved anatomical figures in text, a few full-page. (Variable, generally light, spotting and browning, generally on text but occasionally affecting plates, some plates slightly creased or with offsetting, a few trimmed affecting or excising imprint, touching image on 293, 296, and 310, plate 145 with marginal surface abrasions.) Contemporary speckled sheep, spines gilt in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-pieces in 2, marbled endpapers (slightly rubbed and scuffed, slight chipping to heads of some spines, vol. I block split). Provenance: [?]B. Reim (early, partially-erased pencilled inscriptions on half-titles; pencilled [?binder's] note 'B. Reim full bound sheep' on vol. I half-title) -- Jacob M. Sallade, 21 April 1857 (inscriptions on titles) -- plate numbers added to contents leaves in pencil -- [sale, Christie's London, 17 December 1969, lot 117].
FIRST OCTAVO EDITION OF 'AUDUBON'S GREAT NATIONAL WORK': the first complete edition, the first American edition, and the last published in Audubon's lifetime. This edition is one of the 'most beautiful, popular, and important natural history books published in America in the nineteenth century ... representing the best of pre-Civil War American lithography and giving Audubon the opportunity finally to display his scholarship and genius to a large American audience for the first time' (Tyler). Audubon's fame was firmly established by the lavish double-elephant folio plates of The Birds of America (1827-1838), engraved in England by William Home Lizars and Robert Havell; however, for the octavo edition, Audubon returned to the United States and employed the Philadelphia firm of J.T. Bowen to produce a more commercially-viable edition of the work under the close supervision of his sons. The subscription price for the work in parts was $100, which made it an expensive publication aimed at the country's wealthy, although its potential to reach a greater public far surpassed that of the double-elephant folio edition (which was some ten times more expensive). Its success was immense, giving Audubon financial security and consolidating his wide-ranging appeal as the greatest ornithological artist of his time. To the 435 plates of the double-elephant folio edition, the octavo edition added 65 new images for a total of 500 plates; seven new species are depicted and 17 others, previously described in the Ornithological Biography but not illustrated, are also shown for the first time. The original plates were reduced by camera lucida and lithographed -- with some of the backgrounds entirely changed or greatly modified -- and the compositions were altered so that only one species is depicted per plate. The text itself is a revision of the Ornithological Biography, rearranged according to Audubon's 'A Synopsis of the Birds of North America' (1839). This set is bound up from the original parts, of which some 1,000 complete sets of letterpress and plates were printed: the plates of parts 1-3 and 5 of this set are captioned in italic script, but the image of 'The Black-Shouldered Elanus' (pl. 16) is in the earlier form, with the two birds c. 1mm apart and plates 21-23 bear the incorrect names, suggesting that parts 2 and 5 are from the second printings of 200 and 250 copies respectively of these plates (but not the final states). Plates 187 and 188 are bound in the correct position (although misnumbered) and 471 is misbound after 475, as often. Fries pp. 353-354; Nissen IVB 51; Sabin 2364; Ron Tyler Audubon's Great National Work (Austin, TX: 1993) Appendix I; Wood, p.208; Zimmer p. 22. (7)