Audubon’s birds have been released to Public Domain!
John James Audubon’s book Birds of America is usually listed among the rarest books in existence. The reason for this is that the
French ornithologist used the laborious technique of hand-coloured etched and aquatint plates, which means that there only about 200 complete sets done. A set fetched £7.3m at auction in 2010. Audubon began painting in 1820, and set himself a tough goal: To paint every single avian species in North America. He did it. 435 life-size bird paintings, engraved by Robert Havell Jr. The paintings weren’t issued in book form, but rather sent to subscribers, several at a time, that’s why there are so few complete copies left.
You can explore the complete set and download high-definition copies of all prints from the John James Audubon Center. Here are some of our favorites: