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The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America

This exceptional folio lithograph is from John James Audubon’s The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. It was part of the Imperial Folio Edition published between 1845 and 1851. The color on this set is exceptional, and the condition of the plates remarkably fresh.

Audubon and his son, John Woodhouse, drew all of the quadrupeds in the work. Victor Gifford Audubon drew the backgrounds for many of the prints. The print is a stone lithograph which features original hand-coloring completed by noted printer James T. Bowen of Philadelphia. Great care was taken in the lithography and hand-coloring of the print to give the animal fur a truly realistic appearance.

Audubon worked on the quadrupeds for fifteen years and studied the animals in their natural habitats and collected skins. It was the first work of this size done on American quadrupeds and a landmark for natural science in America. Audubon detailed many frontier animals for the first time, and the work helped spark public interest in the natural flora and fauna of America.

When he undertook the research for this publication, he wrote his collaborator Rev. James Bachman “I am growing old, but what of this? My spirits are as enthusiastical as ever, my legs full able to carry my body for ten years to come, and in about two of these I expect the illustrations out, and ere the following twelve months have elapsed, their histories studied, their descriptions carefully prepared and the book printed! Only think of the quadrupeds of America being presented to the World of Science by Audubon and Bachman.” (Streshinsky, Audubon, p. 332)

Quadrupeds would be his last major work and expedition. He completed half of the drawings before his health began to deteriorate, but it was a true collaboration with his son, JOhn Woodhouse Audubon. John James Audubon served as “…the genius and guiding hand. Audubon was the person who conceived the projects and had the enthusiasm and determination to see them through. He was the artist, the author, the designer, and, when the time came, the salesman. As the success of the ‘little work’ grew, Audubon’s dominant role in the process became more apparent.” (Ron Tyler)

Provenance: George W. Turner (supralibros; signatures dated 1853 to pastedowns of text volumes)

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