AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). Prospectus for "Birds of America". London: Havell and Son, April 1st, 1828.

AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). Prospectus for "Birds of America". London: Havell and Son, April 1st, 1828.

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AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). Under the Particular Patronage and Approbation of His Most Gracious Majesty. Birds of America, from Drawings made during a residence of upwards of twenty-five years in the United States and its Territories, by John James Audubon, Citizen of the United States. London: Havell and Son, Printers, 79, Newman Street, Oxford Street, April 1st, 1828.

Folio (11 2/8 x 8 6/8 inches). Folded to make 4-pages, printed on 3-sides (old folds, closed tears, inscription torn away top right of first page).

 A MAGNIFICENT SURVIVAL, EXCEPTIONALLY RARE, ONLY ONE OTHER COPY OF THIS EDITION KNOWN, Fries edition B, in the  Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Mass.

No known copy for the very first of Audubon's prospectuses for his magnum opus the "Birds of America" exists, although Audubon notes that he has created one in his journal entry for the 17th of March 1827. An example exists dated March 1827, in the collections of the American Philosophical Society, published after the first five numbers of the "Birds of America" had been completed. That issue is followed by the edition here, once the first "Six Numbers" were completed, more than a year later, and listing 119 subscribers, who include the King William IV, the naturalists Lord Stanley of Knowseley, Sir William Jardine, Charles Bonaparte, John Prideaux Selby, all the great libraries of England and Scotland, many private individuals, but only two from America: S.R. Brooks, Esq. Manchester, Deputy consul of the United States of America, and Agent of Commercial Relations of the Republic of Columbia, and Miss Harriet Douglass of New York, who appears to have been a friend of Sir Walter Scott.

Audubon describes his hopes and ambitions for his great work in this prospectus: "To those who have not seen any portion of the Author's splendid Collection of original Drawings, it may be proper to explain, that their superiority consists in every specimen being of the full size of life, portrayed with a degree of accuracy as to proportion and outline, the result of peculiar means discovered and employed by the Author, and lately exhibited to a meeting of the Wernerian Society... The Author has not contented himself with single profile views of the original, but in very many instances he has grouped them, as it were, at their natural avocations, in all sorts of attitudes, either on branches of trees, or admidst plants or flowers: some are seen pursuing with avidity their prey through the air, or searching diligently their food amongst the fragrant foliage; ... The Eggs of most of the species will appear in the course of publication".

The "Particulars of the Plan of the Work" are given as:

1. The Engravings in every instance to be the exact dimensions of the Drawings, which, without any exception, represent the Birds of their natural size

2. The Plates will be Coloured, in the most careful manner, from the original Drawings

3. The Size of the Work will be Double Elephant, and printed on the finest Drawing Paper

4. Five Plates will constitute a Number; one Plate from one of the largest Drawings, one from one of the second size, and three from the smaller Drawings

5. There are 300 Drawings; and it is proposed that they shall comprise Three Volumes, each containing about 100 Plates, to which an Index will be given at the end of each, to be bound up with the Volume.

6. Five numbers will come out annually.

7. The Price of each Number will be Two Guineas; payable on delivery.

Four subsequent editions of the Prospectus are known, dated May 1828, issued early in 1829, dated 1831, and 1835. The last copy to sell at auction was that issued in 1829 (Fries D), in 1978. See Fries "The Double Elephant Folio", pages 385-389. 

 


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