AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851) - John BACHMAN (1790-1875). The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. New York: J.J. Audubon - [V.G. Audubon], 1845-1848.
6 volumes. 3 volumes of plates, 6 text volumes. Plate volumes: Imperial folio (27 x 21 inches). 3 lithographed title-pages (all preliminaries creased and spotted). 150 lithographed plates by J. J. Audubon and J. W. Audubon, backgrounds after Victor Audubon, lithography by J. T. Bowen, all with EXCEPTIONAL ORIGINAL HAND-COLOUR (early plates of each volume a little spotted, one marginal tear to plate LXXV, not affecting the image). Modern half red morocco, grey cloth, gilt (volume 3 front inner hinge cracked). Text volumes: 8vo., (11 x 7 inches). Half-title to volume one; title-page of volume III supplied from a volume one and the number altered in manuscript, some marginal waterstaining to volume one). Modern grey cloth, gilt.
Provenance: Inscribed by Victor Gifford Audubon (1809-1860), son and business manager of John James Audubon, to Dr. A.V. Williams on the title-page of volume II; presented to the Audubon Society of Rhode Island by Bayard Ewing in 1960, with a red-morocco gilt lettering-piece commemorating the gift on the front cover of the first plate volume
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 this, his last 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).
"In 1839 Audubon and his family settled in New York City, and in 1842 they built their first permanent home there, which Audubon named "Minnie's Land." Audubon now turned to a new project, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, with a new collaborator, the Reverend John Bachmna, a New York-born Lutheran clergyman long resident in Charleston, South Carolina. Audubon and Bachman had first met in Charleston when Audubon visited there in 1831. The two agreed to collaborate on the mammal project after the Birds had been completed. Their two families became increasingly close, and John Woodhouse Audubon married Bachman's daughter Maria in 1837, and his brother Victor married her sister Eliza in 1839. Tragically, both young women died of consumption, Maria in 1840 and Eliza a year later. Both sons subsequently remarried.
"Work on the Quadrupeds began in 1840, with Bachman, an able and experienced student of mammalogy, writing much of the scientific text, which supplemented observations drawn from Audubon's journals. Relations between the two men were often strained because Audubon frequently neglected to forward the necessary specimens and books Bachman needed. Audubon undertook a final expedition up the Missouri River to secure additional specimens from March to September 1843. The scientific results of this trip were minimal, however, though Audubon did some sketching with Edward Harris, a naturalist and gentleman farmer from New Jersey, who accompanied him on the trip. Audubon became disillusioned about the sad state of the Indians he encountered and rarely ventured far from their vessel, the Omega, which reached Fort Union near the mouth of the Yellowstone River before turning about. Bachman was greatly disappointed by Audubon's failure to bring back the many new specimens he had anticipated.
"Audubon returned east to paint and to resume periodic trips, during which he solicited subscriptions. By the mid-1840s the increasingly weary naturalist turned many details of the preparation and merchandising of the Quadrupeds over to his sons. John Woodhouse Audubon's marked artistic talents had manifested themselves at an early age, and he made some artistic contributions to the Birds of America. His work on theQuadrupeds was substantial; he completed half of the 150 plates, and later critics admitted that it was difficult to tell the difference between the work done by father and son. Victor Audubon, less talented as an artist, proved to be a competent editor and business manager. John Woodhouse was dispatched to Europe to draw some of the American mammal specimens located in museum collections there. By 1846 Audubon's eyesight was rapidly failing; soon his mental faculties began to slip. The decision was made to abandon any coverage of bats and marine mammals in the Quadrupeds. Bachman's sister-in-law Maria, who for twenty years had drawn flowers and insects for the bird and mammal portraits, became Bachman's second wife several years following the death of her sister. Audubon had a stroke in the spring of 1847, and his sons, with Bachman's aid, completed and published the final volume of the Quadrupeds the following year. The younger Audubons kept the fact of their father's retreat into senility as quiet as possible during his final years; to do otherwise might have had a negative effect on the hoped-for success of the Quadrupeds for both the Audubons and Bachmans" (Keir B. Sterling for ANB).
Bayard Ewing (1916-1991) was chairman of the United Way of America from 1969 to 1972. He was also a trustee of the School of Design, whose campus is in Providence, for 34 years, and was its chairman for 18 years until stepping down in 1985. Mr. Ewing headed the Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations, the Rhode Island Audubon Society, the American Federation of the Arts and the Rhode Island Health Facilities Planning Council.
Dr. A.V. Williams is listed as a new subscriber to volume 7 of the octavo edition of the "The Birds of America", 1844. Litchfield 28; McGill/Wood 208; Nissen ZBI 162; Reese American Color Plate Books 36; Sabin 2367.