John J. Audubon, Pl. 126 Caribou or American Rein-Deer, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, Bowen edition, 1849–54, hand-colored lithograph
Enjoy special pricing on Plate 126 Caribou or American Rein-Deer, Rangifer Caribou, a richly hand-colored lithograph from the octavo edition of the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1849–54), drawn on stone by Philadelphia lithographer, Wm. E Hitchcock, after John Woodhouse Audubon. The male on the left is depicted in summer pelage; the male on the right is shown in winter pelage.
Below are a few general observations John Bachman provides in his detailed description of the habits of the Caribou: (Quadrupeds of North America, pages 113–114, volume 3, 1854, published by V. G. Audubon)
The Caribou or American Reindeer, is one of the most important animals of the northern part of America, and is almost as graceful in form as the Elk (Elaphus canadensis) to which it is nearly equal in size; but it has never, we believe, been domesticated or trained to draw a sledge in the manner of a Reindeer of the old world, although so nearly allied to that species that it has been by most authors considered identical with it.
...The Caribou is famous for its swiftness, and has various gaits, walking, trotting or galloping alike gracefully and rapidly. By many people these animals are in fact thought to be much fleeter animals than the moose, and they are said to take most extraordinary leaps.
...During our [John James Audubon's] expedition in Labrador [in 1833] we saw many trails of Reindeer through the deep and stiff moss; they are about as broad as a cowpath, and many times the fatigues of a long day's hunt over the sterile wilds of the country were lightened by following in these tracks or paths, instead of walking on the yielding moss.
We did not see any of these animals ourselves, but bought one from the Indians and enjoyed it very much, as we had no fresh meat for nearly three months, except fishy ducks, a few curlews, and some willow grouse.
In perfect condition with excellent original color. Octavo size, 7 x 10.75 inches.
$575 this week only (list price $950). Offer expires 8-21-17.
John James Audubon’s last major accomplishment was the creation of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America which was produced in collaboration with his friend, the naturalist, the Reverend John Bachman, who wrote the accompanying text. In the summer of 1843, Audubon embarked with his son, John Woodhouse, on a final drawing expedition up the Missouri River to document and depict the four-legged mammals of North America.
Produced from 1845 to 1848 by the distinguished Philadelphia print maker, John T. Bowen, the set of 150 black-and-white lithographs was completely hand colored. Lithography proved an excellent medium for depicting the tactile realism of the mammals’ fur. These prints were published in imperial folio size, measuring 22 by 28 inches. Acclaimed as the definitive nineteenth-century work in the field of American mammalogy, many of the mammals were drawn by John Woodhouse Audubon with backgrounds contributed by Victor Gifford Audubon.
After John James Audubon passed away in 1951, John Bachman completed the letterpress in 1852. In March of that year, Bachman wrote to a friend that Audubon's older son, Victor Gifford Audubon, was canvassing in the South for subscribers to an octavo edition of the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. "The Work (Miniature) will be complete in about thirty numbers, furnished monthly at $1.00 per number. The figures were made by the Audubons, and the descriptions and letter-press were printed by myself. ...I will only add that in my department is summed up the result of investigations pursued through a long life, and, I think, the figures have never been equalled in any publication either in Europe or America."
As with the octavo Birds, the octavo edition of the Quadrupeds was a smaller version of the Bowen edition imperial folio, again printed and hand colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia. Employing a new invention, the camera lucida, J. W. Audubon reduced the images in size. These miniatures exhibit a remarkable amount of attention to quality and detail, as well as a meticulous fidelity to the larger works.
America’s most revered artist-naturalist, John James Audubon (1785–1851), is renowned for his extraordinary undertaking to record the birds of America. The images he created are icons of 19th-century art. Though fascinated by nature since childhood, studying and drawing from it, it was not until 1819, when Audubon was 34, that he fully embraced the life of an artist-naturalist. Having found his calling, he set out on a mission to create the Birds of America, exploring the American backwoods and wilderness to discover, record, and illustrate its avian life. Unable to find an engraver in the United States who could produce his great work in the size of life, that issue was resolved when he reached the shores of Great Britain. Together with London engraver, Robert Havell, J. J. Audubon and his family created the lavish double-elephant-size folio of The Birds of America, published from 1827–38, thus spectacularly launching his career as an artist-naturalist and publisher of natural history folios depicting North American birds and animals.
References: Francis Hobart Herrick, Audubon the Naturalist, vol. ii, 1917, p. 273, 292–3
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