On June 14th, Christie’s will offer one of the most important illustrated books of all time at auction. The Birds of America by John James Audubon has an auction estimate of $8,000,000-12,000,000. From the Christie’s web site:
The two lanky purple herons [at right] appear to be deep in conversation. The adult bird, with its rich brown ruff, gestures with a raised blue leg as if to emphasise a point; the younger heron — its plumage still a juvenile snow-white — shrugs its rounded shoulders and keeps its bill shut. The engraving is both rigorously ornithological and strangely anthropomorphic. When you look at an engraving like this one, you have the feeling that you know these birds, that they are old friends.
This is one of the 435 hand-coloured illustrations in The Birds of America, the magnum opus of John James Audubon. He was 35 years old, bankrupt, and just out of debtors’ prison when he had his ‘great idea’. He would use his skills as an artist and a woodsman to document, as never before, the bird species of his homeland.
And none of these works should be confused with Lorrie Moore’s stunning novel Birds of America, published in 1998.