Bowen Royal Octavo Editions
Royal Octavo Birds (1840 – 1871)
1st Royal Octavo Edition
When the Havell folio was nearly complete, Audubon began work on a smaller edition which could be made more widely available, and would contain the text of his Ornithological Biography. He conceived an octavo edition, 1/8 the size of the originals at 6½ by 10½ inches, and commissioned J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia to create lithographic prints. This relatively new method of reproduction used greasy inks on a water-washed stone; the ink printed onto the paper and the stone could be used many times without wearing away as the etched lines on the engraved copper plates would do. These single-color lithographs were also hand painted, like the aquatints. Bowen used the camera lucida process to project a smaller, reversed image of the full-sized prints onto the stone for copying. Audubon increased the number of plates from 435 to 500, separating into individual images some birds which were originally portrayed together on a single plate. The first edition was published in 1840-1844 and numbered 1,198 copies.
Publication data on the first edition:
2nd and Subsequent Editions
Second and subsequent editions are similar to the first edition except that the prints have tinted lithographic-wash backgrounds. While several prints in the first edition have colored backgrounds, they were hand-colored. These editions are difficult to identify once they have been removed from their bindings, as there are no edition-indicators on the prints.
|Edition||Year of Publication||Publisher|
|First||1840-1844||J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier|
|Second||1856||J.W. Audubon & V.C. Audubon|
|Third||1859||J.W. Audubon & V.C. Audubon|
For an exhaustive discussion of these various editions, you may wish to read Audubon Art Prints: A Collector’s Guide To Every Edition by Bill Steiner, ISBN 1-57003-503-2.
A complete set of all 500 images from the 1st Royal Octavo edition is available in the Bowen Royal Octavo Gallery.
A complete listing of the Royal Octavo bird prints, by family and genus, is available here, along with Audubon’s field notes.