The Birds of America

The scale of Audubon’s monumental work of ornithology is best summed up by the facts: eleven years in the making (not counting years of preliminary drawing); 435 plates containing 497 species, all presented life-size on the largest paper available at the time, double elephant folio, and all painstakingly engraved and hand-coloured from Audubon’s original drawings. The genius of Audubon’s work – the accuracy, the detail and above all the drama of his images – is as astonishing now as it was at the time, and it was the prevailing genius of Audubon’s singular personality that drove the publication forwards against all the odds. This complete set of Birds of America dates from Audubon’s visit to Oxford in March 1828. The subscriber was George Williams, Regius and Sheradian Professor of Botany, on behalf of the Radcliffe Library. Audubon found only one other subscriber in Oxford, ‘the Anatomical School of Christ Church College’.


Hand-coloured copper engravings by W H Lizars (1788-1859), Robert Havell, Sr (1769-1832) and Robert Havell, Jr (1793-1878)

435 plates (645 x 975 mm) in four volumes, arranged according to families, as listed in Audubon’s A Synopsis of the Birds of North America, 1839

English binding, c. 1900: half calfskin over blue linen boards