Octavo Edition

John James Audubon in America Collection

Although the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America was a critical success, it did not make him wealthy.  Returning to the United States, he sought to capitalize on his fame by publishing a more lucrative version of the work, which he sold by subscription for $100. This smaller seven-volume version included 500 lithographic (rather than engraved) plates. It is referred to as the octavo edition, following printing terminology for books of this size and format.  As in the folio edition, the plates were hand-colored.  The work was financially successful, and several editions were issued.  As Danny Heitman notes in A Summer of Birds, the “venture made a sizable profit and enabled Audubon to pay for Minniesland, a handsome New York estate" (61).

Audubon's son, John Woodhouse Audubon, produced most of the images, and in some cases the background and/or vegetation was altered. See Drawings and Proofs for more information regarding the work involved in reducing the images for this edition.

Text from exhibition, Audubon at Oakley (2008).