The Birds of America is one of the best known natural history books ever produced and also the most valuable – a complete set sold at auction in December 2010 for GBP7.3 million, which is a world record for a book. First published in double elephant size (approximately a metre tall) in the first half of the nineteenth century, it is famous for its stunning life-size illustrations of birds set within landscaped backgrounds.
The Birds of America was issued inparts over 11 years and only around 200 completed sets were ever produced. Less than 120 of these survive today, locked away in museums, galleries and private collections around the world. To create this edition of Audubon's masterpiece, the Natural History Museum's own original edition was disbound and each of the 435 beautiful hand-coloured prints was specially photographed. The artworks are accompanied by the scientific descriptions that were used in the original The Birds of America and there is also a new introduction by David Allen Sibley.
John James Audubon was a naturalist and painter and is considered one of the greatest bird artists of all time. Born in Haiti in 1785, he spent much of his life travelling North America observing, catching and drawing birds and animals in remarkable detail. Using a variety of materials to create a highly dramatic style, he painted almost 500 species of the 700 or so regularly occurring North American bird species. He also painted other animals but it is his life-size illustrations of birds that he is most famous for. David Allen Sibley is a world-renowned bird artist, ornithologist and author. He is the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, considered by many to be the most comprehensive guide for the identification of birds in North America.