AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851.
The Birds of America, from Original Drawings by John James Audubon.... New York: Roe Lockwood & Son, [1858-]1860.
Atlas volume only. Double-elephant broadsheet folio (1000 x 675 mm). Lithographed title, 148 (only, of 150) CHROMOLITHOGRAPHED PLATES ON 103 (OF 105) SHEETS, some finished by hand, by Julius Bien after J.J. Audubon. Contemporary half calf over marbled paper-covered boards, spine gilt in eight compartments with semi-raised bands, lettered in the second and sixth compartment the others with repeat decoration in gilt, marbled endpapers. Lacking plates 296 (Pinnated Grouse) and 385 (Mallard Duck), title and first seven plates torn, creased, soiled and small losses (marginal in the main), the majority of plates with short clean tears to margins, most between 1 and 4 inches long, occasional heavier toning or spotting, binding worn and rubbed, rebacked with original spine laid down. Plate-by-plate condition report available by request.
Provenance: Milton Academy, Massachusetts (bookplate).
A LARGELY COMPLETE COPY OF THE SPECTACULAR SECOND FOLIO OR "BIEN" EDITION OF AUDUBON'S MASTERPIECE: "THE LARGEST AND MOST AMBITIOUS COLOR PLATE BOOK UNDERTAKEN IN 19TH-CENTURY AMERICA" (Reese). In 1858 or 1859 John Woodhouse Audubon made the decision to re-publish his father's Birds of America using full-sized chromolithographic versions of the original hand-colored aquatints, and printing the smaller format plates two to a sheet: this would allow him to offer the book to subscribers at half the cost of the original. Julius Bien was contracted to carry out the work of re-interpreting the original images as chromolithographs: printing the colors and only using hand-coloring where absolutely necessary. The intention was to issue the work in 45 parts, one of which would contain the text, for a total subscription price of $500. Subscriptions were sought by John Woodhose Audubon, but, apparently, with less success than his father had had thirty years earlier: Fries succeeded in locating only 49 copies by 1973. Unfortunately, the combination of the outbreak of the Civil War with rumored dubious dealings by some of the financial backers meant that only the first 15 parts and 7 volumes of octavo text were ever published. "Although only one-third completed when the project collapsed in 1861, the Bien Audubon is the largest and most ambitious color plate book undertaken in 19th-century America, rivaled only by the folio Quadrupeds" (Reese 40). Happily, the 150 plates that were printed by Bien include many of Audubon's most famous images: the wild turkey, the barn owl, the wood duck, the Carolina parakeet, the blue heron, the flamingo, the white-headed eagle to name but a few. The plates are dated from 1858-1860, with most numbered with the part and series number at the upper left and the final number (corresponding to the author's 1839 Synopsis) at upper right. Ayer/Zimmer pp 24-25; Ellis/Mengel 102 (a fragment); Fries, Appendix B, pp 355-59; Nissen IVB 50; Reese Stamped with a National Character 40.