Audubon’s Birds of America
From 1827-1838, John James Audubon published approximately 200 sets of the the double elephant folio Birds of America. Each set contains 435 illustrative plates produced from a copperplate engraving and then colored by hand, and originally sold for $1,000. Bound into four-volume sets standing well over three feet tall, each volume weighs approximately fifty-six pounds. Of the approximately 200 sets originally printed, 134 remain intact, one of which is housed in our Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
In June 1987 the Library Friends purchased two copies of the limited edition 1985 Abbeville Press facsimile of the double elephant folio. Each of the 435 plates required ten to eighteen colors and as many as four attempts before perfection was achieved. One facsimile set was broken up and auctioned off to raise money to restore our original set, while the other facsimile is on display by the Literatures and Languages Library. Each week the plates on display are changed in order to show as much of the collection as possible.
Browse the Plates: The University of Pittsburgh has digitized their elephant folio, which is presented here together with Audubon’s Ornithological Biography.
Resources on Audubon: Want to know more about Audubon and his folio, but not sure where to start? Check out this list of resources includes books, catalogs, films, and music about Audubon and his Birds of America.