John James Audubon (1785-1851)
An album of 42 plates from the original double-elephant folio edition of The Birds of America; from Original Drawings [Edinburgh & London: published by the Author, 1827-1829]. Double elephant 2 (644 x 535mm). 42 HAND-COLOURED ETCHED PLATES, WITH AQUATINT ENGRAVING, AFTER AUDUBON, by William Lizars of Edinburgh, Robert Havell. Sr. and Robert Havell, Jr. of London. (Small tears to blank margins of 7 plates, slight damage to surface of image area of plate 14 and to plate mark at lower right corner of plate 23, light surface soiling to plate 66, light vertical crease to plate 75.) Contemporary red half morocco gilt, red morocco title label on upper cover with decorative fillet and roll-tool border around the wording 'Audubon's Illustrations' (neatly restored to style).
A SIGNIFICANT FRAGMENT OF AUDUBON'S MASTERPIECE, INCLUDING THE EARLY LIZARS PLATES, ALL WITH VERY FINE COLOURING. The plates are from the first fifteen numbers of volume I (the earliest is plate III, the last plate 75). Included are six plates engraved by Lizars of Edinburgh, who began production of the work in late 1826; the other 36 plates were executed by the London engravers, Robert Havell & Son, in 1827-1829. Of the Lizars plates, three (VIII, IX and X) were printed and coloured by Robert Havell, senior.
As with most large publishing undertakings of the period, The Birds of America was issued to subscribers in parts over a number of years. Given the cost of the work and length of time needed to complete the publication it was not unusual for subscribers to come and go, and it is likely that this collection represents the holdings of an early subscriber who lapsed after the first fifteen numbers.
Although it has not yet been possible to trace the identity of the subscriber, it is possible to deduce a number of relevant details from an examination of the album: that the owner of this set had a more than passing interest in ornithology is evidenced by the contemporary manuscript correction on plate 50 ('Error The Black and Yellow Warbler (Sylvia Maculosa)'). The correction suggests that the owner was using the album in conjunction with Audubon's Ornithological Biography (published in 1831) where the author points out his own mistake in nomenclature (vol.I, pp.260-261). One of the main problems with The Birds of America was its unwieldy size. The owner of the present album has overcome this problem and created a more manageable volume (whilst leaving wide margins and not affecting the plate areas in the least) by having the plates reduced in size by the binder. This may also offer a clue as to why he stopped subscribing: the large-format plates, which could not be cut down without loss to the image, were just to big for his folio shelves.
The plates are numbered as follows: III-V ('Engraved by W.H.Lizars'); VIII-X ('Engraved by W.H.Lizars Printed & Coloured by R.Havell, Senr'); 13, 14, XV, 18, 19, 20 ('Engraved by R.Havell, Junr. Printed & Coloured by R.Havell, Snr'); 23-25, 28-30, 33-35 ('Engraved, Printed & Coloured by R.Havell & Son'); 43-45, 48-50, 53-55, 58-60, 63-65, 68-70, 73-75 ('Engraved by R.Havell, Jnr. Printed & Coloured by R.Havell, Snr.'). Watermarks are occasionally partially visible, but generally the smaller size of the sheets prevent an accurate reading.
The plates are as follows:
1. Prothonotary Warbler (Plate no. III, Protonotaria citrea)
2. Purple Finch (Plate no. IV, Carpodacus citrea) (small tear to outer blank margin)
3. Bonaparte's Flycatcher (Plate no. V, Canada Warbler, Wilsonia canadensis) (small tear to outer blank margin)
4. White Throated Sparrow (Plate no. VIII, White-thoated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis)
5. Selby's Flycatcher (Plate no. IX, Hooded Warbler, Wilsonia citrina)
6. Brown Titlark (Plate no. X, Water Pipit, Anthus spinoletta) 7. Snow Bird (Plate no. 13, Northern Junco, Junco hyemalis)
8. Prairie Warbler (Plate no. 14, Dendroica discolor) (slight damage to plate area)
9. Blue Yellow-Backed Warbler (Plate no. XV, Northern Parula Warbler, Parula americana)
10. Bewick's Wren (Plate no. 18, Thryomanes bewickii)
11. Louisiana Water Thrush (Plate no. 19, Louisiana Waterthrush, Seiurus motacilla) (small tear to lowere margin)
12. Blue-Winged Yellow Warbler (Plate no. 20, Blue-winged Warbler, Vermivora pinus)
13. Yellow-Breasted Warbler (Plate no. 23, Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas) (slight damage to plate mark at lower right corner)
14. Roscoe's Yellow-Throat (Plate no. 24, Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas)
15. Song Sparrow (Plate no. 25, Melospiza melodia)
16. Solitary Flycathcher or Vireo (Plate no. 28, Solitary Vireo, Vireo solitarius)
17. Towhe Bunting (Plate no. 29, Rufous-sided Towhee, Piplio erythrophthalmus)
18. Vigor's Warbler (Plate no. 30, Pine Warbler, Dendroica pinus)
19. American Goldfinch (Plate no. 33, Carduelis tristis)
20. Worm Eating Warbler (Plate no. 34, Helmitheros vermivorus) (small tear to outer margin)
21. Children's Warbler (Plate no. 35, Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia)
22. Cedar Bird (Plate no. 43, Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum)
23. Summer Red Bird (Plate no. 44, Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra&i)
24. Trail's Flycatcher (Plate no. 45, Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii) (small repaired tears to lower margin)
25. Azure Warbler (Plate no. 48, Cerulean Warbler, Dendroica cerulea) (small tear to lower margin)
26. Blue-Green Warbler (Plate no. 49, Cerulean Warbler, Dendroica cerulea)
27. Black & Yellow Warbler (Plate no. 50, Magnolia Warbler, Denroica magnolia)
28. Painted Finch (Plate no. 53, Painted Bunting, Passerina ciris)
29. Rice Bird (Plate no. 54, Bobolink, Dolychonyx oryzivorus)
30. Cuvier's Regulus (Plate no. 55, Cuvier's Kinglet, Regulus cuvieri)
31. Hermit Thrush (Plate no. 58, &ICatharus guttatus)
32. Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Plate no. 59, Dendroica pensylvanica)
33. Carbonated Warbler (Plate no. 60, Carbonated Warbler, Dendroica carbonata) (small tear to lower margin)
34. White-Eyed Flycatcher or Vireo (Plate no.63, Vireo griseus) 35. Swamp Sparrow (Plate no. 64, Melospiza georgiana)
36. Rathbone Watbler (Plate no. 65, Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petedhia)
37. Republican or Cliff Swallow (Plate no. 68, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) (light surface soiling)
38. Bay-Breasted Warbler (Plate no. 69, Dendroica castanea)
39. Henslow's Bunting (Plate no. 70, Henslow's Sparrow, Ammodramus henslowii
40. Wood Thrush (Plate no. 73, Hyclocichla mustelina)
41. Indigo Bird (Plate no. 74, Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanta) 42. Le Petit Caporal (Plate no. 75, Merlin, Falco columbarius) (light vertical crease)
Anker 17; Fine Bird Books (1990) p.73; W.H. Fries, The Double Elephant Folio (Chicago, 1973), pp.246 et passim; Nissen IVB 49; Wood p.209; Zimmer pp.18-20.