3 volumes Imperial folio (27 x 21 inches). 3 lithographed title-pages, 150 fine hand-colored lithographed plates by J. J. Audubon and J. W. Audubon, backgrounds after Victor Audubon, lithography by J. T. Bowen (title-pages of volumes I and III and contents leaves in all 3 volumes lightly spotted, scattered spotting on plate 46, plates 8, 51 and 101 browned, light marginal finger soiling on about 4 plates, plates 1-3 and 101 slightly creased at center, light streak along right margin of plate 56). Volume I bound in publisher's brown half morocco over browned ribbed cloth, volumes II and III in publisher's half black morocco over ribbed purple cloth, yellow coated endpapers, spines lettered gilt (a bit worn at extremities, covers scuffed).
Provenance: with the engraved armorial bookplate of Edward Sands Litchfield (1891-1984) on the front paste-down of each volume, his sale 29th November 2001, lot 14.
First edition, "the largest successful color plate book project of 19th-century America" (Reese).
A bright and brilliantly colored set of Audubon's magnificent final work, The Viviparous Quadrupeds. Audubon's enthusiasm at the start of the project was unbridled. Around 1840 he wrote to his collaborator, the Rev. James Bachman, "I am growing old, but what of this? My spirits are as enthusiastical as ever, my legs full able to carry my body for ten years to come, and in about two of these I expect the illustrations out, and ere the following twelve months have elapsed, their histories studied, their descriptions carefully prepared and the book printed! Only think of the quadrupeds of America being presented to the World of Science by Audubon and Bachman" (Streshinsky, Audubon, p. 331).
The artist managed to complete seventy-seven drawings before failing health kept him from his work. The remainder were completed by John Woodhouse Audubon. The dauntingly massive enterprise was a commercial success, owing chiefly to Victor's careful management. Before Audubon's death in 1851, his sons succeeded in soliciting some three hundred subscriptions for the work. From the distinguished sporting library of Edward Sands Litchfield. Litchfield 28; McGill/Wood 208; Nissen ZBI 162; Reese American Color Plate Books 36; Sabin 2367.