Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2014 Issue

New Books on Audubon's Birds, Rampant Lions

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An English perspective on John James Audubon.

John James Audubon is undoubtedly the best known illustrator of American natural history, its birds in particular. As such, some may be surprised to learn that his success was dependent upon the reception he received in England. While the early response to his drawings was lukewarm in America, it was enthusiastic in England. Without it, America's great ornithologist and artist might well have been consigned to obscurity, a talent unappreciated and lost to history.

 

Christine E. Jackson, a professional librarian and author of books on ornithological art and illustration, recently published a book entitled John James Audubon: An English Perspective. It illuminates his years in England, locating a publisher, gathering the subscriptions needed to finance his massive undertaking, and supervising the production of the classic first edition of his Birds of America. This massive, double elephant folio book, published in installments, was expensive to produce and expensive to buy. For many years, until last fall's sale of a copy of the Bay Psalm Book, it held the record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, one copy exceeding $11 million. Indeed, it would take a later publication of a smaller, more affordable octavo edition for Audubon to finally make some real money from his amazing creation.

 

Audubon was born in the French Caribbean, but emigrated to America. He tried his hand at a few things, but art was his strength. His naturalist interests, particularly with America's birds, led him to begin drawing these animals. It became something of an obsession. In the early 1820's, he set about the task of seeking examples of every American bird he could find, sometimes spending months in the wilderness. His aim was to create his great book. However, his project was coolly received in America. One of those who recognized his talent was French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, living in exile in America. He encouraged Audubon to bring his wares to England, which he did in 1826. So begins the era covered by this new book.

 

Audubon would spend the years from 1826-1839 partly in England, partly in America. His time in England was devoted to producing and promoting his book. His visits to America would enable him to seek out and draw more birds. Ms. Jackson looks at his time in England. It was there that he met some of the most important and influential people of the time, industrialists, professionals, artists, and naturalists. He was taken to philanthropic organizations and met with members of British high society. It enabled him to make his pitch for subscribers, whose financing was essential for the book's production. Along with drumming up business, Audubon spent his time overseeing the book's production, including a crew of illustrators who provided the color to his drawings.

 

Ms. Jackson's book not only looks in detail at Audubon in England, but at the lives and careers of his English subscribers and friends, often prominent members of British society. This provides a better understanding of the times and Audubon's place in them. Additionally, the book provides information about his wife, Lucy Green Bakewell, and her family. Mrs. Audubon was born and raised in England, emigrating to America in her teens.

 

The author may be reached at the following email address: cejacksonbirdart@waitrose.com

 

The Oak Knoll Press has published an account of The Rampant Lions Press. A Narrative Catalogue. It is both a history and a bibliography. The Rampant Lions Press was formed in 1924 by Will Carter. Will was only 12 years old at the time, so it took a bit of time to get really rolling. Carter moved the press to Cambridge, England, in 1934, and in 1936, it published its first book. By 1948, Carter was able to turn the press into a full-time business.

 

For the next 60 years, Rampant Lions was one of England's most notable fine presses. All of its books were printed by letterpress, handmade paper being the norm. In the 1960's, Will was joined by his son, Sebastian. Together, they continued until Will's passing in 2001 at the age of 88. Sebastian then operated the press alone until 2008, when he retired. Sebastian Carter is the author and compiler of this history of the Rampant Lions Press. It has been divided into the press' four eras: 1924-1941, 1942-1963, 1964-1990, and 1991-2008. Within these eras, it describes all of the 321 books printed by the press. Its files, now housed by the Cambridge University Library, were used to provide the detailed information. The book contains 130 black and white illustrations plus 16 pages in color.

 

The book may be ordered from Oak Knoll by emailing them at orders@oakknoll.com or calling 800-996-2556. The price is $65.  

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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