Lot 7
  • 7

Audubon, John James

10,000 - 15,000 USD
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  • Ornithological Biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America; accompanied by descriptions of the objects represented in the work entitled The Birds of America, and interspersed with delineations of American scenery and manners. Vol. I: Philadelphia: E. L. Carey and A. Hart, 1832; vol.II: Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Company, 1835; vol.III: Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black [and others], 1835 [but with New York 1836 copyright slip pasted onto the half-title]
  • paper, ink, leather
Volumes I-III (all published of the American edition), 8vo  (10 1/4 x 6 1/4 ins.; 260 x 160 mm). Half-titles, 16pp. prospectus to 'The Birds of America' at the end of vol. I. Some old dampstaining to volumes I and II. Uniform near-contemporary black half morocco over marbled paper-covered boards, spines in five compartments with semi-raised bands, lettered in the second and fourth compartments; extremities scuffed, inner hinges strengthened with cloth at an early date, vol. III lacking the front free endpaper.


Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838, each volume inscribed by John James Audubon and dated Boston, September 27th 1836); Henry Ingersoll Bowditch (1808-1892, signatures).


Anker 18; cf. Fries Double Elephant Folio, Appendix F "Editions of Audubon's Prospectus", p.389;  cf. Howes A-389; Mengel/Ellis 98 & 99  ('A separate American edition of volume I of this famous work'); Wood p.208; Zimmer p.19

Catalogue Note

Birds of America inscribed by Audubon to Nathaniel Bowditch. A wonderful association between American scientists.

The provenance of these volumes is particularly appropriate. Both Audubon and Nathaniel Bowditch rose to the top of their chosen fields by their own efforts. Despite relatively humble beginnings, Bowditch showed a genius for mathematics and an interest in maritime trade, a combination which, when allied with a flair for business, translated into a successful and productive life in many fields. He is today perhaps best remembered for his The New American Practical Navigator (first published in 1802).

There are slight variations between the three volumes, but the wording of the inscription in vol.III is typical:

"To / Nathl. Bowditch Esq / with the best wishes and high / esteem of his friend & servant / John J Audubon / Boston Sepr. 27th 1836"

Audubon had evidently known Bowditch for some time before the present volumes were inscribed, but the probable background to the inscriptions is as follows: Audubon had arrived in Boston from New York on business, on 20 September 1836. His visit was productive: he procured a number of specimens, made contact with friends (including Nathaniel Bowditch), visited individuals and institutions in Boston (and nearby) who were potential subscribers, and met Daniel Webster and Washington Irving (both of whom gave him letters of introduction). On the 27th September 1836, the date of the inscriptions in the present volumes, Audubon recorded in his journal that John Quincy Adams delivered a eulogy on President Madison during the day, and that in the evening he (Audubon) attended a dinner hosted by the President of the Natural History Society, Dr. B.C. Green. It was possibly here that Audubon took the opportunity to inscribe the present volumes. The inscriptions are sincere and show Audubon's admiration for Bowditch.