John James Audubon, Pl. 498 Common Scaup Duck, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–44

$155 this week only (list price $250). Offer expires 6-26-2017

Laura Oppenheimer

John James Audubon, Pl. 498 Scaup Duck, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–44

Acquire a superb first edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of AmericaPlate 498, Common Scaup Duck, Fuligula marila. after John James Audubon, at a special discount from our already low prices. Current name: Lesser scaup, Aythya affinis. The plate depicts two ducks standing on a rock by the water's edge. The light house in the far distance to the right visually relates to the cattails in the foreground at the left creating diagonal dynamic in the picture plane, thereby animating the composition and also focusing the eye on the central figures of the male and female Scaup ducks. 

The accompanying text for this plate was completed after publication of the Havell edition double-elephant folio of of The Birds of America, which comprises 435 plates. In the Havell edition, plate 229 depicts a single species of Scaup Duck. About two years after Audubon completed the double-elephant folio, he wrote of a second species of Scaup, which is depicted in this plate and is found only in the octavo edition.  

In the the Ornithological Biography Audubon writes of a the Common Scaup Duck, the second species of Scaup. "It is extremely curious that none of the authors who have written on the ornithology of our country, should have discovered that, independent of the subject which forms this article, another species  of Scaup Duck also exists, and that abundantly too, throughout the United States. ...Until about two years since, I thought I had given the history of the Common Scaup Duck, but find now that I have been mistaken, and all I have said of Fuligula marila must now be applied to Fuligula mariloides of Vigors. The bird which has been described in my Ornithological Biographies, and figured in y large plates, being in fact the Fuligula mariloides of Vigors. ...Dr. Richardson, who found this latter species, speaks of it as being smaller, but does not point out any specific differences between the two birds."

Though Audubon was correct in identifying that there were two distinct species of Scaup Duck, ornithologists today believe that his first description and name for the species depicted in the double-elephant work was not mistaken; rather the species name for plate 498 was in error.

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 x 6.625 inches.

Reference: An Index and Guide to Audubon's Birds of America, Susanne M. Low, 1988, page 112; The Birds of America from Drawings made in the United Stated and their Territories, John J. Audubon, Volume 7, 1844, page 355

$155 this week only (list price $250). Offer expires 6-26-17.

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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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