The Quadrupeds of North America.

“THE MOST NATURALISTIC DEPICTION OF AMERICAN MAMMALS EVER DONE”: FIRST OCTAVO EDITION OF AUDUBON’S QUADRUPEDS

The Quadrupeds of North America.

AUDUBON, John James and John Bachman .

Item Number: 111688

New York: V.G. Audubon, 1849, 1851, 1854.

Rare first octavo edition of Audubon’s Quadrupeds, illustrated with 155 magnificent hand-colored lithographic plates, in handsome publisher’s morocco. Royal octavo, three volumes, original publisher’s blind-stamped moroccoraised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. In near fine condition. An exceptional example, uncommon in the original publisher’s morocco.

Having built his reputation with the monumental Birds of America, Audubon began an equally imposing project: to capture on paper the astonishing variety of American mammals. The scope of the geographical range was immense, comprising the British and Russian possessions in America, the whole of the United States and its territories, California, and part of Mexico. Audubon traversed much of this territory, collecting specimens, skins, and live animals which he used as models for his paintings. Before the completion of the work, however, he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed and partially blind. The Quadrupeds was completed due to the efforts of Audubon's long-time friend and collaborator John Bachman, who contributed the text, and to both of his sons, particularly John Woodhouse, who painted in his father's style and was himself greatly gifted. He "shouldered immense responsibilities both in the field and at the easel to bring the Quadrupeds to fruition," and is in fact the artist responsible for about half of the completed paintings. (Ford, Audubon's Animals, 7). "From the perspective of his quadrupeds, [Audubon's] career unfolds with new fascination, leaving a fresh impression of his genius." Bachman said of the Quadrupeds: "They are the most beautiful and perfect specimens of the art. I doubt whether there is anything in the world of natural history like them, I do not believe that there is any man living that can equal them" (Ford, 16 and 59). Audubon's Quadrupeds "is a breathtaking accomplishment… the most naturalistic depiction of American mammals ever done" (Legacies of Genius 128).

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