My goal is to create teaching programs in 200 American Colleges using my engravings and lithographs to create excitement.
Whomever gets the original watercolors becomes the central institution for the study of the iconography of the natural world. They will have the best collection in the world
JOHN JAMES AUDUBON PRINTS IN THE NATURAL HISTORY INSTITUTE
About the Amsterdam Edition “Double-Elephant Folio” Prints
John James Audubon’s masterwork, Birds of America, was originally published in the 1830s, in the “double-elephant folio” format (approximately 29 ½ x 39 ½ inches), in a limited edition of 200 sets. These prints were made from copper plate engravings by Robert Havell, Jr., whose skill as an engraver has been called as significant as Audubon’s as a painter. More than 135 years later, in 1971 and 1972, the “Amsterdam Edition”—created by the joint efforts of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Amsterdam) and Johnson Reprint Corp. (New York), was the first facsimile edition to recreate the entire collection in its original double-elephant folio format. The Amsterdam Edition, considered pre-eminent among facsimile editions, was modeled on an original set of Havell’s engravings, and was overseen for accuracy by a panel of ornithological experts, including Roger Tory Peterson and S. Dillon Ripley. This printing was limited to 250 sets. In the 1840s, Birds of America was published in a smaller Octavo edition, designed for broader public appeal. We are fortunate to have prints from both these collections.
A Conservation Story
We selected these five prints from the Amsterdam Edition not only for their aesthetic appeal, but also for the conservation story they tell—a story of failed stewardship of wildlife, followed by success based on lessons learned. The Great Auk was the first North American bird species to be driven to extinction by humans. Flightless, colonial seabirds on islands of the North Atlantic, they were slaughtered by fishermen in great numbers, and were gone by the mid-19th century. The Passenger Pigeon was almost certainly the most abundant bird ever to have existed on the planet. Flocks were so large that they were measured in miles, or in hours or days they took to pass. Audubon himself described the effect of one flock in Kentucky in 1813: “the light of the noonday sun was obscured as by an eclipse.” If ever there was a bird that seemed imperishable, this was it. The last individual died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Four years later, the last Carolina Parakeet, our native North American parrot, succumbed in the same zoo. Previously it had ranged widely throughout the southeastern United States, foraging on fruit. The California Condor seemed poised to follow the same course toward human-caused extinction when the final individuals were removed from the wild, in southern California, in the late 1970s. But a captive-breeding program, followed by re-introduction into the Grand Canyon Ecoregion in the 1990s has been a cause for hope: the population still numbers in just the hundreds, but the giant wings of the Condor—largest bird in North America—soar above northern Arizona and southern Utah today. The Peregrine Falcon also was in perilous decline in the 1960s and 1970s, due to the concentration of pesticides in its prey. But the elimination of DDT and related compounds, along with a widespread re-introduction program, has yielded healthy Peregrine populations in many parts of North America. This species was removed from the Endangered Species List for the best possible reason: recovery. Here in Prescott, Peregrine Falcons now breed on the cliffs of Granite Mountain and Thumb Butte.