John James Audubon. Pl. 263 “Downy Woodpecker.” From The Birds of America.
New York: 1856-75. Second or later edition. Octavo. (sheet: ca. 6 1/2 x 10 1/4"). Lithograph. Original hand color. With litho-tint background. Very good condition. A/A
Even as Audubon was seeing the last plates of the first edition of The Birds of America being finished, he was making plans for the publication of a smaller version. This royal octavo edition, first published in New York and Philadelphia in 1840-44, was such a success that seven editions followed it, beginning in 1856 with the Second Edition, of which these prints are examples. These prints are not simply small replicas of the elephant folio edition. Only one species appears on each plate, and often the backgrounds are simplified. New species of birds and new plants appeared in this edition, and the birds are grouped in a more orderly scientific manner. For his pioneering travel around the United States in search of new subjects in the wild, his lifelike and dramatic style, and his monumental works on the birds and quadrupeds of North America, Audubon is, perhaps, also the greatest American natural history artist. Beginning in 1827, Audubon began to issue the prints for his monumental The Birds of America, which when completed ran to a total of 435 double elephant folio prints. Because of the continued strong demand for these prints, Audubon had smaller, octavo size editions of these prints issued.
More from Audubon's Second and later Edition Octavo bird series: