John James Audubon, Pl. 35 Great Cinereous Owl, Birds of America, first edition octavo, 1839–44, hand-colored lithograph
Acquire a superb first edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of America, Plate 35, Great Cinereous Owl, Strix cinera, (Gmeliin), at a special discount from our already low prices. Audubon depicted an adult female from a specimen in the Zoological Society of London. The current name for this species is Great Gray owl, Strix nebulosa.
In this excerpt from the Ornithological Biography or account of the habits of birds of the United States of America, Audubon describes his pursuit of a specimen of this northern species of American owl:
This fine Owl, which is the largest of the North American species, is nowhere common with us, although it ranges from the north-eastern coast of the United States to the sources of the Columbia river. It has been procured near Eastport in Maine, and at Marblehead in Massachusetts, where one of them was taken alive, perched on a wood pile, early in the morning, in February, 1831. I went to Salem for the purpose of seeing it, but it had died, and I could not trace its remains. The gentleman, Mr. IVES, in whose keeping it had been for several months, fed it on fish and small birds, of which it was very fond. Besides shewing me various marks of attention, he gave me a drawing of it made by his wife, which is still in my possession. It uttered at times a tremulous cry not unlike that of the Little Screech Owl, Strix Asio, and shewed a great antipathy to cats and dogs. In the winter of 1832, I saw one of these Owls flying over the harbour of Boston, Massachusetts, amid several Gulls, all of which continued teasing it until it disappeared. I have seen specimens procured on the Rocky Mountains by Mr. TOWNSEND, and several brought to London by the medical officer who accompanied Captain BACK in his late Arctic journey. Among the individuals which I have examined I have found considerable differences as to size and markings, which may be attributed to age and sex. My drawing was taken from a remarkably fine specimen in the collection of the Zoological Society of London.
Hand-colored royal octavo lithograph, lithographed, printed, and colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia. Includes an archival mat. Excellent color, perfect condition, 10.25 x 6.5 inches.
$650 this week only (list price $950). Offer expires 3-26-18.
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 nineteenth-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.
To make The Birds of America more affordable and widely available, in 1839 Audubon began the first octavo edition, a smaller version of the folio which was printed and hand colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia. Employing a new invention, the camera lucida, the images were reduced in size, rendered in intermediate drawings by Audubon and his son John Woodhouse, and then drawn onto lithographic stones. These miniatures exhibit a remarkable amount of attention to quality and detail, as well as a meticulous fidelity to the larger works. Some compositional changes were made in order to accommodate the smaller format.
Like the Havell edition, Audubon’s first octavo edition was sold by subscription and distributed in parts five at a time. However, the octavo editions were issued in proper phylogenic, or species order. These prints also bear the plate number in the upper right-hand corner and the subscription number in the upper left. The first edition of approximately 1,200 sets was completed in five years from 1839 to 1844.
Though the first edition remains the most desirable, several octavo editions of both the Birds and Quadrupeds were produced. In 1856, a second edition of the Birds was published by Audubon’s son, Victor Gifford. The octavo edition of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America was first published between 1849 and 1854.
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