John James Audubon, Pl. 300 American Ptarmigan, hand-colored lithograph, first edition octavo, 1839–1844
Acquire a superb first edition Audubon octavo print from the Birds of America, Plate 300, American Ptarmigan, Tetrao mutus, Leach. after John James Audubon, at a special discount from our already low prices. The current name is Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus mutu, Montin, 1781. In this plate, the plumage of the male Rock Ptarmigan its changing from summer to winter. The scene shows an American Ptarmigan on a bluff overlooking a lake surrounded by mountains.
In the the Ornithological Biography Audubon recounts the story of the specimen figured in this plate. The specimen was procured in 1818 by the ornithologist, astronomer, and geophysicist, Captain Edwin Sabine (1788–1883) during Captain John Ross's first exploration of the Arctic. Sabine presented the specimens he collected during that expedition to Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, who generously loaned Audubon the specimen.
The Common Ptarmigan of Britain, Lagopus mutus of Leach, which is said to occur on the continent of Europe, although less abundant there and confounded with the Rock Grouse, Lagopus rupestris, has been, it was thought, found by Captain Sabine on islands lying on the south-west side of Baffin's Bay [off the southwest coast of Greenland] , and this species was published in my Ornithological Biography as identical to that bird. Individuals of a species of Ptarmigan obtained in Baffin's Bay have been considered as specifically identical with Scottish Ptarmigan. In the Fauna Boreali-Americana, Dr. Richardson remarks that "a specimen, in summer plumage, sent to Sir John Franklin from Churchill river, was identified by John Sabine, Esq., with the Scotch Ptarmigan,—thus establishing it as an inhabitant of the American continent. I have not been able to trace that specimen," he continues, "and I am informed, that the only authentic examples from the New World are now in the possession of Lord Stanley, now Earl of Derby, to whom they were presented by Mr Sabine." The distinguished nobleman here mentioned, my generous friend the Earl of derby, having with his usual liberality, lent me three fine specimens, I have represented that which seemed the most beautiful.
$75 this week only (list price $125). Offer expires 8-7-17.
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.