John James Audubon, Pl. 345 Tell-tale Godwit or Snipe, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–1844

$185 this week only (list price $250). Offer expires 7-10-2017

Laura Oppenheimer

John James Audubon, Pl. 345 Tell-tale Godwit or Snipe, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–1844

Acquire a superb first edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of AmericaPlate 345, Tell-tale Godwit or Snipe, Totanus melanoleucus, Vieill. after John James Audubon, at a special discount from our already low prices. The current name is Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca. Depicted in this wonderful period scene are a male (left) and female (right) in winter plumage on a bank near a river in the foreground of a view of East Florida with cabins and a barn in the background.


In the the Ornithological Biography Audubon writes that the Tell-tale Godwit or Snipe has "a great range in the United States, where, indeed, I have found it in almost every district, and at all seasons." Below, he describes their preferred habitat and how their graceful motions are "very pleasing to the eye." 

"Although found in the vicinity of both salt and fresh water, at all seasons, it usually prefers the latter, and the spots which appear to be best adapted to its nature are ponds of which the water is shallow and the shores muddy, so that they can walk and wade at ease upon them. Wherever such ponds occur, whether in plantations or in the interior of forests, or on extensive savannahs or prairies, there you will find them actively employed, wading so far into the water as to seem as if they were swimming. If just alighted after ever so short a flight, they hold their wings upright for a considerable time, as if doubtful of not having obtained good footing. Closing their wings, they then move nimbly about the pool, and are seen catching small fishes, insects, worms, or snails, which they do with rapidity and a considerable degree of grace, for their steps are light, and the balancing or vibratory motion of their body, while their head is gently moved backwards and forwards, is very pleasing to the eye." 

Lithographed, printed, and colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia. This beautifully hand-colored royal octavo lithograph includes an archival mat. In perfect condition,10.125 x 6.5 inches.

Reference: An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, Susanne M. Low, 1988, page 138; Ornithological Biography or and account of the United States of America accompanied by descriptions of the objects represented in the work entitled The Birds of America, John J. Audubon, Volume IV, 1838, pages 68–69.

$185 this week only (list price $250). Offer expires 7-10-17.

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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 19th-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.

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