John James Audubon

John James Audubon

About the Artist:

For our full inventory of Audubon prints, please click on the appropriate link below. Entries with a strike-through are not in stock but feel free to contact us and we may be able to find one. 

Amsterdam Edition
Havell Edition
Leipzig Edition
Octavo Edition

Havell Edition Prints

The most prized prints of Audubon's original sketches are the aquatints known as the Havell Editions. These were produced between 1826 and 1838 under the direct supervision of Audubon himself. These aquatints are based on Audubon's original watercolors and ink drawings. The prints in this edition are printed on double elephant sized paper, which measures 27.5 by 39.5 inches. The paper used in the printing process was handmade by James Whatman in Kent County England and contains the original watermark that reads "JWhatman" or "JWhatman/Turkey Mill," followed by the date. Because the printing process was in black ink, the Havell Edition prints were hand-colored under the artist's supervision. Four hundred and thirty-five plates were produced and issued in four volumes, comprising the landmark ornithological folio, Birds of America. The first ten plates were engraved by William Home Lizars of Scotland, but due to labor issues, he was forced to resign from the project. Audubon then acquired the services of Robert Havell, a known master in the aquatint technique, who agreed to pick up the project. Less than two hundred complete sets were produced. 

Amsterdam Edition Prints

In recognition of the importance and beauty of the first edition of Audubon's Birds of America, a second edition was published in Amsterdam during the years 1971 through 1973 by the Johnson Reprint Company of New York. The entire project was supervised by an international panel of noted ornithological as well as Audubon experts. Such high standards of craftsmanship were maintained that every detail of Audubon's original plates was reproduced. 

The original double-elephant format was used, and this size maintained Audubon's depiction of the birds in their natural life-size. The Amsterdam Edition contains all four hundred and thirty-five elephant folio lithographs in full color on 100% cotton rag paper, which is watermarked, "G SHUT & ZONEN." The series was issued in a modest edition of two-hundred and fifty sets worldwide and approximately fifty to sixty of them were bound into four volumes.

Royal Octavo Edition

Just prior to the completion of the double-elephant folio lithographs of The Birds of North America, Audubon had already decided to publish a much smaller version of The Birds. He discussed his plans with his friend and colleague, the Reverend John Bachman, and both men decided that a royal octavo version would result in both a greater number of subscriptions (due to its lower cost than the double-elephant size) as well as a chance for Audubon to include additional species.

In Philadelphia in 1840, Audubon began production on a royal octavo size of The Birds of North America and arranged for the lithography to be done by John T. Bowen (who also was the lithographer for the McKenney and Hall Native American prints). Audubon did several of the birds himself, but most of the work was done by one of his sons, John Woodhouse Audubon, via the camera lucida technique, requiring a prism to cast the image onto another surface at a reduced size. The first edition was complete by 1844 and was sold in seven bound volumes comprising 100 sets of 5 species each, for a total of 500 plates with one species per plate. The double-elephant folio lithographs were limited to 435 plates, but several of them included multiple species.

The Royal Octavo Birds, or as Audubon called them "The Birds in Miniature," were an immediate success, fulfilling his and Bachman's belief of a more affordable set selling at $100, instead of the $1000 for which the double elephant folio sold. It is unknown exactly how many complete sets were made for the first edition, but the number is estimated to have been between 1000 and 1200. Slight differences occur in the botanical backgrounds of some plates, but most plates were reproduced identically to the double-elephants. There were eight editions in all (the last having been published in 1871), and first edition lithographs are most easily recognized by the lack of a lithographic wash.

Gilley's Gallery is pleased to offer a varied assortment of original first edition octavo lithographs (1840 - 1844). All prints are in excellent condition and are kept in protective individual sleeves. If you have any questions regarding a specific octavo lithograph, please send us an email or give us a call.

Leipzig Edition Prints

In the 1970s, forty full-size images in an edition of one thousand were produced in Leipzig, Germany using somewhat antiquated techniques. The collotype process is known in the trade as Leipzig Edtion. This is a limited edition and is double elephant-sized. Under magnification, these early Leipzig prints reveal no geometric pattern of dots. They are still being published generally with the name "Ariel Press" in the margin. These prints have no watermark and have false plate marks. 

Audubon Quadrupeds

The small quadrupeds were published in octavo size just as the birds, but for the first time, the name of Audubon's son, John W., appeared on many of the plates. J.T. Bowen was the lithographer, but about seventeen of the plates in volume one were lithographed by Nagel and Weingaertner of New York. A number of artists, chiefly William E. Hitchcock and R. Trembly, transferred the images to the stones, signing their names to the plates in the process. About two-thousand copies of the first edition were sold. Four other editions followed, the last in 1870. These three-volume sets, as with the seven volumes of birds, were used as gifts to foreign governments by the U.S. government. The plates measure about seven by ten inches in size, and they are hand-colored.

Additional Information:

Born: 1785
Birthplace: Haiti
Died: 1851