Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A "Double Elephant" Folio for the Record Books

(above images by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP)

As both an environmentalist and a vegetarian, I consider John James Audobon's illustrated works in Birds of America to be both inspiring artwork as well as works of reflection. Bold and brilliant in every way, Audobon's beautiful pieces showed the world what natural and mesmerizing beauty inhabited this country's shores – still largely free of human influence.

(click illustrations to enlarge)

Published as a series of sections between 1827 and 1838, No. 11 of the 100 or so remaining copies is going up for auction on December 7th at Sotheby's London. The collection of 435 hand-colored prints, created from engravings of Audobon's illustrations, measures more than 3 feet by 2 feet because Audobon wanted to paint the birds life size. By doing so, Audobon was quoted as calling this edition the "double elephant" folio.

Interested? Expect to bid between 4 million and 6 million pounds, or $6.2 and $9.2 million. After all, a copy sold at auction in 2000 for $8,802,500, which remains to this day a world record for any printed book.

(click illustrations to enlarge)