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Audubon octavo, American Scoter Duck. Pl. 403.

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Lot 0039 Details

Description
Title: American Scoter Duck. (Male and female). Pl. 403.
John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Medium: Lithograph handcolored, 1840-44.
From the first octavo edition of "The Birds of America." Printed and colored by J. T. Bowen, Philadelphia.
Average paper size 10 1/4 x 6 3/8" (25.9 x 16.2 cm).

John James Audubon (1785-1851), America's most famous naturalist, was born in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo (now Haiti), on April 26, 1785. His father was a French sea captain, Jean Audubon, and his mother, Jeanne Rabine, was a servant. After his mother died, his father brought him to his home in Coueron, France, a small town near Nantes, where he was raised by his father and step-mother. He was given a formal education; however, his passion was exploring and drawing birds and their nests. In 1803 he was sent to the United States to avoid Napoleon's draft and to run a farm in Mill Grove near Philadelphia that his father had purchased in 1789.

As a naturalist, his interests were not running a farm. He spent his days collecting and drawing interesting specimens, this caused him to lose the farm. Audubon knew great financial hardship throughout his life, as his interest in documenting birds and animals was not marketable. The family eventually settled in New Orleans after living in Kentucky, and Audubon found he could make some money drawing portraits and as a taxidermist. He met Alexander Wilson in 1810 and a decade later Audubon developed the idea of publishing his drawings as engravings.

Traveling to England in 1826, he found the support that he needed to publish his monumental engravings. The proposal was 500 prints showing birds in life size, the paper size is described as double elephant folio, meaning double the size of a large sheet of paper roughly 25 x 38 inches. The first engraver was William Lizars, he was not up to the task of a project the size of Audubon's. In London he was introduced to Robert Havell, Jr., he was a multi generation master printer and had the skill set necessary to take on this project. Over eleven years Havell engraved 435 copper plates and printed over 87,000 impressions roughly 200 sets of the "Birds of America."

After returning to America, Adubon started working with a Philadelphia lithographer J. T. Bowen. This series is considered the Octavo edition, octavo means one eighth of a sheet of paper roughly 6 3/8 x 10 1/4 inches. In this series, published in America, all 500 of his drawings were published.

He then went on to produce the Quadrupeds, also known as the Animals of America. These were published in the late 1840's and were done in elephant folio size, roughly half the size of the Audubon/Havell birds.
Condition
Condition: Good condition and color, save for handling marks.
Buyer's Premium
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Audubon octavo, American Scoter Duck. Pl. 403.

Estimate $200 - $300Aug 08, 2020
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