AUDUBON, John James & BACHMAN, Rev. John. The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. J.J. Audubon (-V.G. Audubon), New York, 1845-.
Provenance: 'W Coll 9119 [-9121]' (shelfmarks on endpapers); 'XBCA AU2' (shelfmarks at foot of atlas
AUDUBON'S MAGNIFICENT FINAL WORK, WITH BRILLIANTLY COLOURED PLATES. ONE OF THE VERY FEW GREAT COLOUR PLATE BOOKS ON ANIMALS.
First edition. Three atlas volumes, elephant folio (69.2x53 cm) and 3 volumes text, royal 8vo (26.5x18 cm). Three lithographic title-pages and 3 leaves of contents in letterpress. 150 hand-coloured lithographic plates after John James and John Woodhouse Audubon, the backgrounds after Victor Audubon, by J.T. Bowen; text volume with 5 lithographic plates. (The titles and contents leaves creased and spotted, volume 1 title with a short marginal tear, volume 2 title with small losses in
the top margin, plates 41, 56 and 101 evenly browned, plate 51 with shallow crease, plate 81 with small area of marginal soiling, a few short marginal tears, the margins lightly yellowed and with occasional light spotting, this a little more pronounced in volume 1; text volumes with margins lightly yellowed and occasional minor spotting, text volume 2 without half title and final blank, and text volume 3 without final blank.) Atlas volumes bound in contemporary maroon half leather over cloth boards, the sides ruled in gilt, the spines ruled, tooled and lettered in gilt, yellow coated endpapers, edges gilt; text volumes bound in contemporary half russia, spines with raised bands gilt and lettered in compartments, marbled endpapers, neat restoration to joints andextremities, an excellent set with fine clean plates.
Born in Santo Domingo (now Haiti) in 1785, as the son of a French sea captain and a French chambermaid, Audubon arrived in America in 1803 and settled near Philadelphia. In 1820, facing bankruptcy as a result of several failed business ventures, Audubon decided to pursue his life-long interest in natural history and initially devoted his time to producing a complete record of American birds. He travelled for the next four years along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in search of species that may not have been included in the work of Alexander Wilson. The result of this endeavour was the famous The Birds of America. This was published in very large format (so-called double- elephant folio) between 1827 and 1838. In the early 1840's at the same time Audubon was producing the commercially successful octavo edition of his masterpiece, The Birds of America, he and his sons also began production of The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, an elephant folio of 150 lithographs meant to match the lavishness of the Birds. Unlike the double-elephant folio Birds, the Quadrupeds was produced entirely in the United States, making it the "largest single color plate book to be carried to a successful conclusion during the century [in this country]" (Reese). It took the Audubon family five years to publish the 150 plates and there were at that time three hundred subscribers. The book was the product of Audubon's collaboration with John Bachman, a pastor who had studied quadrupeds since he was a young man and who was recognized as an authority on the subject in the United States. This was a most ambitious project to be undertaken by a man of Audubon's age (he was fiftyseven when he started work on it). Many of the species were little known or poorly documented, and it would involve Audubon to seek out many species himself. In 1843 Audubon led a small party on an exploration to the Rockies to gather material. They never reached the Rockies but returned home with enough specimens pickled in rum to enable Bachman to proceed with the text. By 1848 the last of the plates appeared, but the project had exhausted Audubon. After 1846 his eyesight was poor and his mind was wandering and it fell to his two sons to complete the project. Audubon was only to live another three years. "These final prints specifically document the senior Audubon's fascination with the disappearing "frontier." Somber images, such as the Entrapped Otter canvas which foregrounds an otter's paw caught in the vice of a large, jagged metal trap, clearly evidenced the artist's growing concern for the survival of many natural species in the face of vast human encroachment." (Milwaukee Art Museum).