AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). The Quadrupeds of North America. New York: V.G. Audubon, 1849-1851-1854.

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3 volumes. (10 x 6 4/8 inches). 155 fine handcolored lithographed and chromolithographed plates by W. E. Hitchcock and R. Trembly after J.J. and J. W. Audubon (pale waterstain affecting a few text leaves which are also a bit brown). 20th-century half brown morocco, brown cloth, gilt (extremities a little rubbed).


First octavo edition, bound from the original parts. The 'Quadrupeds' was first published in three Imperial folio volumes between 1845 and 1848, as "The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America", with 150 colour plates. The first octavo edition, issued in response to the success of a similar edition of 'The Birds of America', between 1851 and 1854, contains all of the original 150 plates, reduced by means of the camera lucida, with 5 of the 6 supplemental octavo plates that were issued separately with text in 1854. Audubon's enthusiasm at the start of the project was unbridled. Around 1840 he wrote to his collaborator, the Rev. James Bachman, "I am growing old, but what of this? My spirits are as enthusiastical as ever, my legs full able to carry my body for ten years to come, and in about two of these I expect the illustrations out, and ere the following twelve months have elapsed, their histories studied, their descriptions carefully prepared and the book printed! Only think of the quadrupeds of America being presented to the World of Science by Audubon and Bachman" (Streshinsky, Audubon, p. 331).

The artist managed to complete seventy-seven drawings before failing health kept him from his work. The remainder were completed by John Woodhouse Audubon. The dauntingly massive enterprise was a commercial success, owing chiefly to Victor's careful management. Before Audubon's death in 1851, his sons succeeded in soliciting some three hundred subscriptions for the work. Bennett 5; Nissen ZBI 163; Sabin 2638.