AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851) and Rev. John BACHMAN (1790-1874)
The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America
New York: J.J. Audubon (-V.G. Audubon), 1845-1846 [but 1845-1849]. Three volumes, elephant folio broadsheets. (27 1/4 x 21 1/4 inches). Three lithographic titlepages, three leaves of letterpress contents. 150 handcolored lithographic plates after John James Audubon and John Woodhouse Audubon, the backgrounds after Victor Audubon, printed and colored by J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia.
Expertly bound to style in half dark purple morocco over period purple cloth covered boards, spine with raised bands lettered in the second and third compartments, the others decorated in gilt, marbled edges and endpapers
[With:] The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America . New York: J. J. Audubon, 1846-1851-1854. 3 volumes, small 4to (10 x 7 inches). Half-titles, list of subscribers. 6 hand coloured lithographed plates [i.e. plate 124 and plates 151-155]. Expertly bound to style uniform to the above in half purple morocco over period purple cloth covered boards, marbled endpapers.
A beautiful set of the first elephant folio edition of Audubon's Quadrupeds, complete with the separate text volumes.
This is Audubon's final great natural history work. Unlike the double-elephant folio edition of the Birds of America, which was printed in London, the Quadrupeds was produced in the United States. It was the largest and most significant color plate book produced in America in the 19th century, and a fitting monument to Audubon's continuing genius.
The work was originally published in thirty parts, each containing five plates, and priced at ten dollars per number. The first proofs were ready in 1842, but Audubon was fully employing the services of the lithographer J.T. Bowen on the octavo edition of The Birds of America, which was the greatest money-maker of any of the Audubon family ventures. Instead, Audubon and his sons busied themselves in gathering subscribers, signing up over 200 by the summer of 1844 (eventually the subscription list reached 300). The last part of the octavo Birds appeared in May, 1844, and publication of the folio Quadrupeds commenced immediately with the first number being issued in January, 1845 and the first volume completed within the year. Audubon's health began to fail dramatically, and responsibility for new art work fell mainly on his son John Woodhouse Audubon, with some help from his brother Victor. The second volume was completed in March, 1847. But, as John Woodhouse travelled first to Texas, then to London and Europe, the pace slowed further. The final number was issued early in 1849. By this time the elder Audubon had become completely senile ("his mind is all in ruins" Bachman wrote sadly in June, 1848). He died in early 1851. In the end, about half of the plates were based on the work of John James and half on the efforts of John Woodhouse.
Audubon's collaborator on the text of the Quadrupeds was the naturalist and Lutheran clergyman, John Bachman, who was a recognized authority on the subject in the United States. The two began their association when Audubon stayed with Bachman and his family in Charleston for a month in 1831. This friendship was later cemented by the marriage of Audubon's sons, Victor and John to Bachman's daughters, Maria and Eliza. Audubon knew Bachman's contribution to the Quadrupeds would be crucial, especially because of his concerns over his own technical knowledge. By 1840, Bachman had become indispensable to the Quadrupeds project, and as Audubon showed increasing signs of vagueness, found himself writing most of the text, with some help from Victor (who was the primary business manager of the project). The text appeared between December, 1846 and the spring of 1854. Two issues of the third volume of the text are known, the present being the preferred second issue, with the supplementary text and the six octavo sized plates issued in 1854, being images not found in the folio atlas.
The elephant folio edition of Audubon's Quadrupeds will always be compared to the incomparable Birds. It should be judged in its own right, as one of the grandest American works of natural history ever produced, and one of the greatest American illustrated works ever created.
Bennett, p.5; Wood, p.208; Nissen 162; Reese, Stamped with a National Character 36; Sabin 2367; Ford, Audubon's Animals , New York, 1951; Boehme, Sarah, ed.: John James Audubon in the West, New York, 2000, especially Ron Tyler's essay, "The Publication of the Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America", pp. 119-182, and Robert Peck's essay "Audubon and Bachman, a Collaboration in Science", pp. 71-115.