Freeman's is pleased to present, in its upcoming Books & Manuscripts sale, nine hand-colored engraved plates from John James Audubon's landmark work, The Birds of America. Printed by William Lizars and Robert Havell between 1827 and 1838, the plates were issued unbound to subscribers in groups of five or ten at a time. Notably, only about 200 complete sets of the original 435 plates are known to exist.
John James Audubon (1785-1851) was born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti. He lived the first part of his life in Nantes, France, before emigrating to America to escape the Napoleonic wars, where he settled in eastern Pennsylvania. There, he began exploring his natural surroundings, and found a passion in the study of wildlife. In 1820, Audubon, along with an assistant and limited supplies, headed south on the Mississippi river to begin his efforts in documenting the American avifauna, eventually leading to the publication of his magnum opus.
The nine hand-colored engraved plates on offer at Freeman's range in estimate from $5,000-8,000 up to $50,000-80,000. Each in a handsome, matching frame, the plates portray species like the American White Pelican, the Great Blue Heron, and the Wild Turkey, dynamically positioned in their natural habitats. In their combined aesthetic beauty and technical accuracy, they exemplify Audubon's careful attention to detail, and his abilities as an artist. The work stands as perhaps the most remarkable example of wildlife illustration ever made.