John James Audubon, Pl. 40 Little Screech Owl, Birds of America, second edition octavo, 1856, hand-colored lithograph
Acquire a superb second edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of America, Plate 40, Little Screech Owl, Strix asio, Linn. after John James Audubon, at a special discount from our already low prices. The current name is Eastern Screech-Owl, Megascops asio. This plate depicts an adult with two young birds on a branch of Jersey Pine, Pinus inops. In the accompanying text Audubon writes,
You are presented, kind reader, with three figures of this species, the better to shew you the differences which exist between the young and the full-grown bird. The contrast of colouring in these different stages I have thought it necessary to exhibit, as the Red Owl of WILSON and other naturalists is merely the young of the bird called by the same authors the Mottled Owl, and which, in fact, is the adult of the species under consideration. The error committed by the author of the "American Ornithology," for many years misled all subsequent students of nature; and the specific identity of the two birds which he had described as distinct under the above names, was first publicly maintained by my friend CHARLES LUCIEN BONAPARTE, although the fact was long before known to many individuals with whom I am acquainted, as well as to myself.
Audubon's accompanying text points out that his predecessor, Alexander Wilson, and his supporter, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, mistakenly classified the young and adult Screech Owls as two separate species, and thus explains his reason for depicting the adult and young birds together in this beautiful plate.
Lithographed, printed, and colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia. Includes an archival mat. Hand-colored royal octavo lithograph, excellent color and condition, 6.5 x 10.25 inches.
$195 this week only (list price $350). Offer expires 1-22-18.
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.
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.