Monday, April 21, 2014

How much would you pay for Birds of America?

By Trina Boice

As a writer, I obviously love books, so I wanted to share a special one with you today.  It's a copy of John James Audubon's The Birds of America that was sold at an auction in London for $11.5 million!  To date, it's the most expensive book ever sold.  Why?

It's one of the best preserved editions of the 19th century masterpiece and includes 435 hand-colored illustrations.  Only about 120 complete sets of these illustrations are believed to exist in the world.  Richard Davies, a rare and used books specialist, explained the interest in this book: "Aside from being famous in the rare book world, The 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."

Measuring over three feet in height, the book was created between 1827 and 1838.   The author was insistent that The Birds of America be made up of life-size illustrations that showed all the known species of North America.  He hunted the birds down and shot them so that he could prop them up on wires to paint.  Each drawing took about 60 hours to complete.  Sadly, and ironically, many of the birds in his book are now extinct, such as the Labrador Duck, Great Auk, Esquimaux Curlew and Carolina Parakeet.

It takes two people to pick up the book...and they do so very carefully since the book costs more money than they will ever earn in a lifetime!

Check out this video that shows some of the beautiful artwork in this famous masterpiece!