One of the rarest and most expensive books in the world will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in December. John James Audubon’s Birds of America is expected to fetch a price of 4 million pounds to 6 million pounds ($6.2 million to $9.2 million). A previous copy of the book sold for $8.8 million in 2000.
The huge “double elephant” folio is one of only 119 complete copies of Birds of America in existence. The majority of those (108) are owned by museums, libraries and universities.
Audubon made the book so large (almost 3 feet by 2 feet) so that he could represent life size images of the birds. The 435 prints in Birds of America were made using engravings based on his illustrations. The prints were then hand-colored by colorists working in an assembly line fashion.
Audubon sold Birds of America on a subscription basis to wealthy collectors in America and Britain from 1827 to 1838. This particular copy belonged to subscriber number 11, Henry Witham, an early paleobotanist.
Sotheby’s will hold the auction in London on December 7th.
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