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AUDUBON, John James.

The Birds of America,

from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.

New York & Philadelphia: J. J. Audubon and [vols. I-V] J. B. Chevalier, 1839-40-44 Stock Code: 146756
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Subscriber's copy

First octavo edition of Audubon's "Great National Work", the first complete edition and the first American edition; the original double-elephant folio was published in Edinburgh and London between 1827 and 1838. From the estate of the family of Edward Cruft (17761866), an original subscriber to this edition. Cruft was a prominent Boston merchant and husband of Elizabeth Storer Smith, a second cousin of John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States.

A very handsome set, the plates clean and fresh, 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" (Ron Tyler).

The plates, here accompanied by the text for the first time, were reduced and variously modified from the Havell engravings in the double-elephant folio. Seven new species are figured and seventeen others, previously described in the Ornithological Biography but not illustrated, are pictured for the first time. Audubon may have been prompted to publish the reduced version of his double-elephant folio by the appearance in 1839 of John Kirk Townsend's rival Ornithology of the United States, or, as he writes in the introduction to the present work, he may have succumbed to public demand and his wish that a work similar to his large work should be published but "at such a price, as would enable every student or lover of nature to place it in his Library".

The first edition of the octavo work now represents the only realistic opportunity for most private collectors to own an entire collection of Audubon images in a form that was overseen and approved by the artist himself.

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7 volumes, royal octavo (253 x 156 mm). Handsomely bound c.1900 in dark green half morocco, raised bands decorated in gilt, gilt-lettered in second and fourth compartments, floral centre-tools in others, gold-vein marbled paper sides and endpapers, gilt edges.


500 hand-coloured lithographic plates after Audubon by W. E. Hitchcock, R. Trembley and others, printed by J. T. Bowen of Philadelphia (plates 1-135, 151-500) or George Endicott of New York (plates 136-150), with tissue guards, numerous wood-engraved anat


A touch of rubbing to tips, leaves very slightly trimmed for binding, just affecting a small number of plates at fore edge. A remarkably clean and crisp copy of the most desirable octavo edition.


Bennett p. 5; Nissen IVB 51; Ripley 13; Sabin 2364; Zimmer p. 22. Ron Tyler, Audubon's Great National Work, 1993, Appendix I.


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