The Lost Bird Project | Film

Video: A rare look at Audubon's 'Birds of America' book

Take a rare look at one of John James Audubon's original "Birds of America" book in the Cornell University library.

Held up as a masterpiece of artistic and scientific merit, John James Audubon's "double elephant" folio, 'Birds of America', illustrates more than 500 species hand-painted in detailed, life-size forms.  It is estimated that about 200 first-editions of the book were produced over an 11-year period from 1827 to 1838.   Today, only about 120 editions are known to exist.

Artist Todd McGrain was granted access to a rare edition of the book in Cornell University's library as part of his research for The Lost Bird Project.

Audubon spent several decades observing and collecting specimen to make his drawing that show details of the birds and their habitat.  Named for it's size - about 3 1/2 feet in length - the "double elephant" folio was made from engraved copper plates based on Audubon's original watercolors.  

A first edition of the book was purchased at auction for $7.9 million in January 2012.  Another complete first edition sold in London in December 2010 for $11.5 million, a record for the most expensive printed book sold at auction.

The National Audubon Society has a website with detailed images of the book here.

You can see more clips from The Lost Bird Project and learn more about the extinct species on our Explore page.

Be the first to comment