Collection: John James Audubon - The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America

This comparatively unknown work by Audubon comprised 150 plates initially published progressively from 1842 to 1848. The exceptionally high-quality, hand-coloured lithographic plates are mostly 22 x 30 inches. The accompanying text, written by James Bachman, was issued 6 years later in three volumes, one in 1846, 1851 and 1854. Each volume describes fifty of the mammals featured in the plates. For the first time, these plates and their corresponding texts have been joined together as a single work.

The first edition plates were sold in very small numbers as Audubon's failing health prevented him from embarking on a publicity and selling tour such as had been instrumental in the success of his earlier work, The Birds of America. To date, no Elephant Folio numbered above 30 has been discovered. The extremely rare survivors have faded with changes to the colour tones due to the organic, non-permanent inks and dyes used. These unfortunate faults have been corrected, as have the effects of the inevitable paper deterioration.

Audubon's elder son, John Woodhouse Audubon assisted his father in the production of Volume One and after John Audubon's death in 1851, carried on the work assisted by his brother, Victor Gifford Audubon. In the Introduction, written by Audubon Senior in 1846, there is to be found a fuller account of how the work was initially shared between the various family members and contributors.

Original text and images courtesy of The Natural History Museum, London and the Special Collections Library, University of Michigan.