A complete set of John James Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’ is coming up for sale
Audubon painted the illustrations of "Birds of America" between 1827 and 1838. An avid hunter and taxidermist, he shot the birds and stuffed them, stringing them through with wires and positioning them in lifelike poses for his watercolors. The images were then printed on copperplate and colored by hand in London under the supervision of Robert Havell Jr., who engraved many of the book’s plates. The engravings were originally sold unbound, a collection of five plates shipped to subscribers every month over more than a decade. At the time, a complete set cost roughly $800—or about $19,000 today.
Currently, only 11 of the roughly 200 original "Birds of America" sets are in private hands. About 100 belong to institutions. The rest have been destroyed, lost, or broken up and sold as individual prints.
The set for sale next month, which art dealers have called beautifully preserved, comes from the estate of the late Lord Hesketh, who died 55 years ago after helping compile an collection of rare books and prints.
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