John James Audubon's paintings and descriptions of the birds of North America remain the gold standard against which all ornithological portraits are judged. His landmark work, Birds of America (1838), consisted of 435 life-size prints that were published in batches of five over the course of thirteen years. Because the prints were extremely large and had to be hand-colored by a team of painters, the cost of creating the original sets was exorbitant. Today, complete copies are rare—the last to be sold commanded approximately $11.5 million in a December 2010 auction, making it the most expensive book ever.
The exquisitely preserved, complete set of prints from which this slip-cased facsimile edition was created is part of the permanent collection of the Natural History Museum of London. The images were captured using state-of-the-art digital scanning techniques to preserve the intricate detail and vibrant colors of Audubon's original work. It's a stunning book—and a reminder to us of the importance of preserving these lovely creatures and their natural habitats.