Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2014 Issue

American Natural History from the William Reese Company

85161674-62ee-4379-997e-3abea77740c4

Joseph Wolf's Iceland Falcon.

John James Audubon is best known for his book of American birds, perhaps the greatest American book ever published, but he had one other. The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America rivals Audubon's book on birds. Like the latter, Quadrupeds was published in a large size as well as a smaller, more affordable version. Item 34 is a copy of the spectacular elephant folio edition of Quadrupeds, three volumes dated 1845-46 (but actually from 1849). Audubon began work on the drawings even before the octavo edition of his Birds, which brought in his greatest income, was published. However, he was only able to complete half of the drawings before failing eyesight and mental capacity forced the remainder of the work be turned over to his sons. The text was written by his friend, naturalist Rev. John Bachman. Audubon recognized Bachman's superior knowledge of American mammals and was able to convince him to join the project. Bachman was reluctant, but perhaps the fact that Audubon's two sons married Bachman's two daughters helped. $720,000.

 

This next book is one Reese describes as a “worthy successor” to Audubon's first book: The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America. Daniel Giraud Elliot's “successor” was published in 1869. The book features hand-colored lithographs of birds that were not included in Audubon's earlier work. The plates were created by Elliot and another great ornithological artist, Joseph Wolf. It includes Wolf's depiction of the Iceland Falcon, which Reese describes as “one of the great bird portraits of all time.” Item 29. $48,000.

 

The William Reese Company may be reached at 203-789-8081 or amorder@reeseco.com. Their website is www.reeseco.com.

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