Birds of America

John James Audubon
ISBN 9781566491952 (hardcover)
Published in December 2000
MSRP $40.00
In his magisterial Fine Bird Books, Sir Sacheverell Sitwell says of Audubon: "There is nothing in the world of fine books quite like the first discovery of Audubon. The giant energy of the man, his power of achievement and accomplishment, give to him something of the epical force of a Walt Whitman or a Herman Melville - Audubon is the greatest of bird painters; he belongs to American history."

John James Audubon's Birds of America is the finest pictorial ornithological book ever produced. Unlike the drawings and paintings of his contemporaries, which were produced from prepared skins and zoo specimens, Audubon's paintings are taken directly from his observations in the wild, and the richness and directness come straight from the real world. No wonder that Audubon became known in his lifetime as "The American Woodsman".

Audubon was unable to raise sufficient financial backing in the United States, and he sailed for England in 1826. The 435 hand-colored, acquainted plates were completed between 1827 and 1838, printed in London, and bound in four double elephant folio volumes (measuring approximately 30 x 27 inches) so that all the birds could be illustrated life-size. Between 175 and 200 sets were produced, and the last complete set to come to auction fetched nearly $3,000,000.

This reprint of Birds of America is taken from a rare subscription copy at the Cambridge University Library. The descriptive matter is written by Dr. Colin Harrison who is the author of the standard A Field Guide to Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds and was for 26 years a scientific officer of the British Museum of National History, and Cyril Walker, a Senior Scientific Officer of the British Museum of Natural History.