JOHN JAMES AUDUBON BIRDS OF AMERICA PRINTS
Part 1: Double Elephant
Bien. John James Audubon died in 1851. A few years later his younger son, John Woodhouse Audubon, began a reissue of the elephant folio edition of The Birds of America. To reproduce his father’s work, John Woodhouse chose chromolithography, a popular medium in Europe at the time, and interested Julius Bien, a lithographer who had immigrated to the United States from Germany, in the endeavor. "The plates were the first large chromolithographs made in this country and are examples of good quality 19th Century chromolithography…. The plates are dated 1858, 1859, or 1860. The first and only volume was published in 1860…. The birds from the Bien edition can easily be distinguished from those of the Havell edition by the fact that they are chromolithographed, by the legend, and by the unwatermarked paper. These…have always sold for less than the Havell engravings, but they are, nonetheless, collector’s items because of their rarity and beauty." The Civil War ended this project in 1862 with just 15 sets of 105 prints produced. These were often "doubled", with one sheet containing two separate images. Thus, the Bien prints contained 150 images in total.
In the late 1930's and 1940's, APP Inc., or Artistic Picture Publishing purchased a number of originals and then reproduced the images full-size. Their name is written in block or script letters along the bottom right of the print. These often sell today for $50 to $100.
In the 1970’s, 40 full-size images in in an edition of 1,000 was produced in Leipzig, Germany, using somewhat antiquated techniques, the collotype process, and is known in the trade as the Leipzig Edition. This is a limited edition, and is double elephant sized. Under magnification, these early Leipzig prints reveal no geometric pattern of dots. The fourth edition was printed in Germany and measures 25 1/4" x 38 1/2". Today, these prints are still being published, generally with the name "Ariel Press" in the margin. These prints have no watermark, and have false plate marks, and sell from $25 to $50 dollars. We have one Ariel plate, published in London, date of publishing unknown, which measures 27 x 39 1/2 inches.
Amiel, (Paris) by the Institute de France measure 29 1/2" x 41" in an edition of 300.
In 1971-72 the Johnson Reprint Company of New York City published a full-size reproduction series of the complete Audubon-Havell elephant folio in Amsterdam, Holland, priced at $5,500 for the complete edition. It was limited to 250 sets and in the trade is known as The Amsterdam Prints. They were all sold to collectors and dealers over a period of a few years. Many of these prints are now "sold out" by dealers in Europe and the United States and those remaining are selling for $400 to more than $4,000 each. The sheets are all watermarked "G. Schut & Zonen R Audubon" along one edge, and have a false plate mark impression.
In 1985, Abbeville Press, New York City, in conjunction with The National Audubon Society, undertook a similar project with the sale of complete sets in an edition of 250 which were printed in Japan. The complete set sold then for $15,000. Some of the complete sets have been broken up and individual prints now can sell for thousands of dollars. These prints, measuring 26 1/2" x 39 1/2" are generally of fine quality. They are watermarked "Audubon Society Abbeville Press" and have no plate impression.
The M. Bernard Loats Portfolio was produced based on the watercolors. This limited edition set of 30 prints is embossed J.J. Audubon in the lower left hand corner, along with the symbol for Tryon. Produced in 1988 by Tryon Mint Incorporated of Canada, these prints are a limited edition of 1,000 signed and numbered; double elephant size (26 1/2 by 39 1/2). Our copy has a false plate impression.
From 1999 to the present the Oppenheimer Field Museum Edition is being published. This is an edition of 150 sets of 50 facsimile images, produced by digital scanning. (300 dpi)
During 2005, the Centennial Edition began to be released. This is to be an ink-jet edition, similar to the Oppenheimers, but just a grade better in overall quality.
Martino Publishing is currently releasing prints in a limited edition of 500 using 10 color offset lithography on a 200 line.
In 2006, Discovery Editions began publishing what they term "Perfect Recreations" Here is what they themselves say...
The quality of ours far exceeds all previous Audubon print reproductions. We developed a proprietary process in 2006 that allows us to capture and print at the resolution capacity of the human eye – producing more than ten times the resolution and detail of the 2002 Oppenheimer, 1985 Princeton and 1971 Amsterdam editions.
Currently, there are 12 images. However, they do not seem to be limited editions.
In 2007, Beaux Arts of Texas released several full-sized Hawk prints, the Bird of Washington, and the White-headed Eagle. These sell for $400 each.
Introduced in 1985, the Princeton Audubon Limited Edition is a series of 36 full-size prints. These were directly-screened from actual originals that were purchased and brought into its own printing plant. The prints have greater sharpness of detail, more accurate color fidelity, and tend to have more realistic richness than the other reproductions. This may be due to the use of as many as nine different printing plates in preparing each facsimile print.
Part 2: Restrikes
Alecto Press (England) in 1985 produced six restrikes from the original plates, these being the Turkey Cock, the Turkey Hen, the Snowy Owl, the Mallard Duck, the Canada Goose, and the Great White Heron. About 150 of each image were produced.
In 1984, students at Princeton University produced 50 restrikes of plate 434 from the University collection. These are hand-colored and very fine in quality.
The Rhode Island Audubon Society owns one of Audubon's copperplates and made a fine hand-colored restrike of it. These were distributed to donors.
In 1968, the New York Botanical Garden restruck the Swamp Sparrow and the Boreal Chickadee. About 300 were produced.
In 1958 the Anderson Lamb Company produced 300 restrikes from plate 277, the Barnacle Goose.
Part 3: Smaller Reproductions
Jardin des Plantes, France, copied in 1842, just one year after the original octavo was released, the Mockingbird, plate 138. It was the same size as the original.
B. H. Warren, in his 1888 Report on the Birds of Pennsylvania, copied many octavo plates using chromolithography. These are slightly smaller than the originals ( 6" x 9 3/8") and have little monetary value today. A similar report was published in 1890. These are often falsly termed Audubon originals.
In 1937 the History institute of America, along with the American Museum of Natural History, produced hand-colored copperplate etchings of fourteen images. The prints measure 20 1/4" x 26" and have a plate impression measuring 12 1/4" x 19 1/2". The prints are boldly colored on heavy, deckle edged paper.
Dover Publications, in 1967 reprinted the first edition octavos bound in seven volumes. These offset prints measure 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches.
Volair in 1977, published 40 bird prints from the Octavo edition. Also in 1977 Volair published Selected Quadrupeds of North Anerica, being 37 Quadrupeds from the Octavo edition. In 1979 it published facsimiles of the Octavos, both birds and mammals, measuring 10 1/2" x 7".
American Craft Guild 27 5/8" x 23".
Genuine Craft Prints by J. B. Fisher in New York.
Investment Management & Trust Group at Hospital Trust. This was printed in 1986 as a limited edition of 500. Seven images.
Kennedy & Kennedy selection of six prints measuring 11 x 14 inches.
Lakeside Press six prints measuring 21" x 16".
The giant Northwest Mutual Insurance Company during the 1940's, 50's and 60's produced nearly 20,000,000 calendars containing reduced images of double elephant prints as promotions for their field agents, who in turn gave them to clients. These beautiful calendars were often taken apart and the images framed. Often you will see these individual images sold on Ebay or the like. Generally, they measure about 16 x 20 inches after cutting away the calendar portion. Since these were mass-produced, they have little monetary value, usually selling for 5 to 7 dollars or so. However, they introduced millions to the beauty of Audubon's work for the first time.
Old Mission Gallery, a limited edition of 2000, in sizes of about 19 x 25 inches, embossed with Old Mission Gallery seal in lower left corner of print.
Book Enterprises of New York published "18 Best Loved Bird Paintings by Audubon." These are 9 x 12 inches. They include: Wild Turkey, American Redstart, Summer Tanager, Great Blue Heron, Robin, Field Sparrow, Mockingbird, Bobolink, Purple Finch, Baltimore Oriole, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Warblers and Bluebirds, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Goldfinch, and the Meadowlark The complete set sometimes sells for 35 or 40 dollars.
Macmillan published Duenewald lithographs in their 1937 book "Audubon's Birds of America." These measure 8 3/4" x 12 1/2", and were limited to 2500 copies.
Constance Rourke in 1936. Twelve images measuring 9" x 6 1/2" published by Harcourt/Brace.
Macmillan published the boxed set "Audubon-Birds of America-Fifty Selections with Commentaries by Roger Tory Peterson." These measure 9 x 12 inches.
Wordsworth, in 1997 published 10 1/2" x 14 1/2" images of the Birds of America, bound in a book.
Harry Abrams, of New York, published in 1964 "The Audubon Folio, 30 Great Bird Paintings." The text is by George Dock, and the prints measure 17 x 14 inches.
New York Graphic Society produced in 1951 12 prints. Open edition.
Audubon State Park at present sells four prints of Hawks. Similar to the Beaux Arts facsimiles.
Part 3: Quadruped Imperials
Southart-Parkway, an edition of 750, depicting 12 of Audubon's mammal images. Full-size at 22" x 28". These prints generally sell for 250 to 300 dollars today.
Oppenheimer Editions has produced giclee reproductions of the Quadrupeds.
Rare-Prints Editions has produced giclee reproductioons of selected quadrupeds.