Monday, January 23, 2012

Audubon art book on the block for $4-8 million

"It isn't a book, not in any normal sense of the term," rare book dealer Rick Gekoski told The Guardian of John James Audubon's Birds of America. Rather, the volumes comprise "a large number of works of art – original hand-coloured engravings – bound together for ease of storage and reference. The format was chosen not out of any grandiosity but because it was Audubon's remarkable desire – and ability – to produce life-sized engravings of each bird. Thus the finches and cardinals have plenty of space in which to flit about, while the flamingo and trumpeter swan tilt their necks graciously inward and arrange themselves with some care. The effect of this is just terrific."
One of only 120 complete sets in existence, the volume for sale at Christie's in New York later this month was bought by the fourth Duke of Portland not long after it was issued (in the early 19th century) and is in prime condition. "It's a masterpiece of illustration," commented Richard Davies of AbeBooks. "Aside from being famous in the rare book world, Birds of America has also immense historical and ornithological importance. Some of the birds John James Audubon painted are extinct and he also discovered new species." Even to handle and view the work must be a peak experience: the pages are more than three feet high, the colors are resplendent, and the compositions, often showing the birds in their natural habitats, are magnificent.
This all makes the original $1,400 price tag of one of our special offerings seem downright reasonable. It's The John James Audubon Portfolio: A Selection of the Original Drawings and Watercolors Used in the Making of Birds of America Accompanied by a Choice of Audubon's Writings, and we're offering it for $299.98. Whoa! As it happens, we also have several Audubon wall calendars as well as Audubon Birds: Selected Prints From the Birds of America for a mere $10. We may not be Dukes and Duchesses, but we hoi polloi can to enjoy our Audubon prints in our own fashion!
The blue-winged teals above and the images at right and below are from the Portfolio.
Hummingbirds in freefall: how delightful!

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