“Birds of America“, John James Audubon’s unique sample of nature, art and craftsmanship wrapped in a beautiful album was sold at Sotheby’s last auction for the staggering price of $11.5 million, making it the most expensive book ever sold. This is one of just 11 copies owned by private collectors.
Audubon, a 19th century French-American naturalist and painter, gathered 500 breeds of birds, all illustrated in 1000 hand-painted life-size images, in his extraordinary book, which took 12 years to complete. A rare book dealer from London, Bernard Shapero , explains: “His big thing was the one-to-one ratio. Everyone else cropped the birds. If an eagle is 6 foot, he was going to paint it 6 foot. He scaled back the wings, but it was life size. That was his cachet.” The so-called “father of ornithology” would hunt down the birds, shooting them before propping them on wires to paint. Each drawing took around 60 hours to complete. Sadly, many of the birds in his book are now extinct and exist only in his drawings and as stuffed museum exhibits.
American society wasn’t very interested in his work but that didn’t stop him, and his ambition got him all the way to Britain where his work gained success amongst the aristocracy.
The book is not only beautiful but also very impressive with its 3ft by 2ft pages, and although it wouldn’t fit on most bookshelves, it must be any collectors dream. The previous record was also held by a copy of this unique album, sold in the year 2000 for $8,8 million.