John James Audubon. “Maria’s Woodpecker.” From The Birds of America. Philadelphia: John Bowen, 1840-44. First edition. Royal octavo (sheet: ca. 6 1/2 x 10 1/4″). Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition.
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For his pioneering travel around the United States in search of new subjects in the wild, his lifelike and dramatic style, and his monumental works on the birds and quadrupeds of North America, Audubon is, perhaps, also the greatest American natural history artist. Beginning in 1827, Audubon began to issue the prints for his monumental The Birds of America, which when completed ran to a total of 435 double elephant folio prints.
Because of the continued strong demand for these prints, Audubon had smaller, octavo size editions of these prints issued. The octavo edition of The Birds of America was produced with the same concern for quality and aesthetic appeal as the larger edition, resulting in a wonderful opportunity for the general public to own a part of Audubon’s marvelous work. This royal octavo edition, first published in New York and Philadelphia in 1840-44, was such a success that seven editions followed it. These prints are not simply small replicas of the elephant folio edition. Only one species appears on each plate, and often the backgrounds are simplified. New species of birds and new plants appeared in this edition, and the birds are grouped in a more orderly scientific manner.