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The Birds of America

Nirbhay Dubey 0

John James Audubon's 'The Birds of America' published in 1840, is the most valuable book in the world which was sold for 8,802,500 in march 2000, the highest price ever paid for a book.     


John James Audubon's Birds of America is a portal into the natural world.


Printed between 1827 and 1838, it contains 435 life-sized watercolours of North American birds (Havell edition), all reproduced from hand-engraved plates, and is considered to be the archetype of wildlife illustration. 


Only 120 complete sets of Audubon's 435 hand-coloured, life-sized engravings of America's birds are believed to exist today, with the majority (107) owned by institutions.


The last full edition of The Birds of America, which went up for auction in 2010, sold for £7.3m at Sotheby's, breaking the world record for a single book.


"Birds of America is most significant for its sheer beauty. It's a masterpiece of illustration," said Richard Davies of rare and used book specialist AbeBooks. 


Aside from being famous in the rare book world, Birds of America has also immense historical and ornithological importance. Some of the birds John James Audubon painted are extinct and he also discovered new species.


The illegitimate son of a French sea captain and his creole mistress, Audubon was an itinerant artist who travelled America's wilderness drawing the birds he loved. 


He was insistent that The Birds of America was made up of life-size illustrations, and that it showed all the known species of north America, making the finished volume the greatest of all bird books, arguably the highest achievement of ornithological art.


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