John J. Audubon, Pl. 127 Carolina Titmouse, Birds of America, octavo first edition, 1839-44

David Oppenheimer

John J. Audubon, Pl. 127 Carolina Titmouse, Birds of America, octavo first edition, 1839–44

Enjoy a substantial discount from our already low price on Pl. 127 Carolina Titmouse, Parus carolensis, a superb first edition Audubon royal octavo lithograph. Audubon’s elegant composition depicts a male bird above the nest on a branch of Supple-jack, a species of smilax. The female, on the branch below, is similar in appearance to the male, only slightly paler in color.

Audubon explains in his entry in the Ornithological Biography that he realized this was a new species in 1833 when he was traveling through Maine on his return trip from Labrador and he was “instantly struck” by difference in habits and larger size of the Black-cap Titmouse compared with this smaller species native to the Southern states.

“My drawing of the Carolina Titmouse was made not far from New Orleans late in 1820. I have named it so, partly because it occurs in Carolina, and partly because I was desirous of manifesting my gratitude towards the citizens of that state, who by their hospitality and polite attention have so much contributed to my comfort and happiness, whenever it has been my good fortune to be among them.

A nest was presented to me by Dr. BACHMAN, who found it in a hollow stump, at the height of about four feet from the ground, is cup-shaped, two inches in diameter at the mouth internally, three externally, its depth of two inches. It is composed of fine wool, cotton, and a few fibres of plants, felted together so as to be of uniform thickness throughout. The eggs are pure white.”

This beautifully hand-colored lithograph is in perfect condition, approximately 6.5 x 10.25 inches, includes an archival mat.

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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.

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