Audubon’s Birds of America

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The Library of Cornell University contains a remarkable book of John James Audubon: The Birds of America. Todd McGrain, Creative Director of the Lost Bird Project visited the Library. 

Audubon was particularly interested in birds, and he decided to observe, record, and draw all the birds of North America. His illustrations were detailed, and he depicted them in their natural habitat. One of his works is The Birds of America, and this book is still an important reference work in the field of birds. You can find this book in the Library of the Cornell University (Division of Rare and Manuscripts Collections, Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University).

The illustrations in the book are life-size and based on engravings of 99 x 66 cm (39 x 26 inches) and colored by hand. The book also contains images of bird species that have unfortunately become extinct.

Around 87,000 prints were colored by hand

Audubon worked for 11 years, with an estimated 40 people on the creation and coloring of the etchings. The images were colored based on stuffed birds so that the colors matched completely. It is thought that Audubon produced 200 sets of The Birds of America, all consisting of 5 parts, so he ultimately created around 87,000 prints. Currently, about 130 sets still exist.

Stunning images with lovely descriptions.

When drawing a bird, Audubon paid close attention to how the bird was artistically placed, ensuring the right composition of the drawing. He also considered it essential that the bird’s details were clearly visible. Audubon’s illustrations are a delightful combination of art and science, displaying the captivating environment in which the bird lived. 

Play Video

In the movie, you see Todd McGrain, Creative Director of the Lost Bird Projcect. 

The most expensive book in the world

In 2012, a full first edition of the book was auctioned in New York for $ 7.9 million, but in London, 2010, even more was paid for one complete set: $ 11.5 million. Birds of America is therefore known to be the most expensive book in the world. The Teyler’s museum in the Netherlands bought a first edition in the 18th century for 2,243 guilders! For that time, also a fortune.

Heritage Prints Birds of America Audubon in Teylers Museum The Netherlands Gies Pluim
The Birds of America in Teylers Museum in The Netherlands
Gies Pluim, the founder of Heritage Prints

Exclusive photographs of the paintings

Heritage Prints was allowed to take exclusive photographs of this beautiful book in the Dutch museum. We have made giclées from these high-resolution images, and assembled these in five parts based on Audubon’s original work.

We offer high-quality, historic giclée prints identical to the original in size, color, and tone.