2 volumes. 4to., (13 4/8 x 10 inches). Half-titles and sectional titles, list of subscribers. 189 fine etched plates printed in colour by Langlois, finished by hand, and HEIGHTENED IN GOLD, including 6 large folding plates (some heavy spotting and staining). 19th-century half brown morocco, marbled paper boards, gilt, top edges gilt, others uncut (worn with minor loss at the extremities).
First edition, limited issue, one of 100 quarto sets printed on papier velin with the captions printed in black, of a total edition of 313, which included 200 folio sets with the plate captions printed in gold, 12 folio sets with the plate captions and the text printed in gold, one set printed in gold on vellum. The work was issued in 32 parts over 26 months and is divided into 10 sections Anker records of the magnificent plates, which are heightened with gold, that the 'colours of the birds and their handsome appearance have evidently been the cause of their selection for inclusion in the book. The plates with the bird portraits are in beautiful colours; in this respect they are among the best colour prints found in ornithology'.
The plates were etched by Audebert from his own designs and those of 'les plus belles peintres de Paris et de Londres'; Louis Bouquet assisted with the colouring and Langlois with the printing in oil-colours, and the whole process used in the printing of the plates was invented by Audebert. All the colours were printed from a single plate, and oil paint was substituted for the more common gouache.
Originally a miniature painter, Audubert became interested in natural history after meeting Gigot-d'Orex in 1789, a wealthy collector of specimens, who employed him to paint some of them. Tragically Audebert died at the young age of 41, and this is the last book he completed before his death. The text is largely by Vieillot who continued the work using Audebert's notes after the latter's death in 1800. Anker 14; Fine Bird Books p.73; Nissen IVB 47; Ronsil 103; Wood pp. 206-207; Zimmer pp. 17-18.