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Audubon's Birds of America

Amherst College holds an outstanding copy of one of the most valuable and collectible books ever published: the double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon's Birds of America. The complete story of Audubon's ornithological field work and ambitious publishing venture has been told in great detail elsewhere (Waldeman H. Fries's The Double Elephant Folio: The Story of Audubon's Birds of America is a great place to start) so this page provides information specific to our copy.  
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Golden Eagle. Plate CLXXXI
 
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Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Plate LXVI
Herbert Pratt (AC 1895) purchased our copy of Birds of America from the firm of Bernard Quaritch, one of the great book dealers of London that is still in business today. He gave the four-volume set to Amherst College in 1915 along with a set of Audubon's The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1846-1854) and nine folio volumes by Daniel Giraud Elliot.
Two features distinguish our copy of the double elephant folio. First, it is completely uncut, which means that none of the pages have been trimmed and no detail of the original printing has been lost. This feature alone prompted Bernard Quaritch to remark in a letter to Pratt that "I have no hesitation in describing your copy as the best of all, principally by reasons of its uncut state."  
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 Snowy Owl. Plate CXXI
 
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Carolina Parrot. Plate XXVI
Second, our copy is the only copy of the double elephant folio that contains a list of the subscribers. This list of 132 names, including "His Most Gracious Majesty, George IV" is dated 31 December 1828 and bound into volume one of our set.
A volume of the double elephant folio is on display in the John William Ward Exhibition Room in the Archives & Special Collections on the A Level of Frost Library and can be viewed during our regular hours (9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday). In order to minimize light exposure, we turn the page every Monday morning.  
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Great Horned Owl. Plate LXI

We are not equipped to provide reproductions of the plates in our copy of Audubon's Birds of America for publication or personal use. The University of Pittsburgh has digitized their set and high-quality reproductions can be ordered through their web site: http://digital.library.pitt.edu/a/audubon/

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