John James Audubon, Pl. 52 Fork-tailed Flycatcher, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–44

$750 this week only (list price $1,200). Offer expires 3-20-2017

Laura Oppenheimer

John James Audubon, Pl. 52 Fork-tailed Flycatcher, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–44

Acquire a superb first edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of AmericaPl 52 Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Musicapa savanna, after John James Audubon and Maria Martin, at a special discount from our already low prices. In this elegant composition, a male is depicted with a botanical of Gordionia lasianthus, a small to medium-sized evergreen tree or shrub commonly referred to as loblolly-bay that is found in the southeastern United States.

In the accompanying text for the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in his Ornithological Biography, Audubon writes that in 1832 he "observed one of these birds a few miles below the city of Camden [New Jersey], flying over a meadow in pursuit of some insects, after which it alighted on the top of a small detached tree, where I followed it and succeeded in obtaining it." Audubon captured the bird and made a drawing of it. Maria Martin, the sister of Audubon's friend, John Bachman, was one of Audubon's artist-assistants in drawing botanicals. She made the graceful botanical drawing of the loblolly-bay which was sent to Audubon while he was in Boston. Audubon copied his original sketch onto Maria Martin's botanical drawing which was then shipped to Havell in London to produce the double-elephant size print. The octavo edition of this plate is a miniature version of the Havell plate.      

In perfect condition, this hand-colored royal octavo lithograph includes an archival mat and measures approximately 6-1/2 x 10-1/4 inches.

References: The Original Watercolor Paintings by John James Audubon for The Birds of America, Volume 1, plate 40, 1966; Jay Schuler, Had I the Wings: The Friendship of Bachman and Audubon, 1995, page 99


$750 this week only (list price $1,200). Offer expires 3-20-17.


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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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