1826 – 1838

Double Elephant Folio

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The most famous and prized of the Original Audubon prints are the aquatints produced under the artist’s supervision between 1826 and 1838. Based on Audubon’s watercolor and ink drawings, copper plates were engraved using acid and resin, and black ink prints were made on “double elephant” sized paper, 27½ by 39½ inches, to depict the birds in full life-size. The paper was made by James Whatman at Turkey Mill in Kent County England. This paper was the finest available and bears the countermark saying “JWhatman” or “JWhatman/Turkey Mill” followed by the date. The prints were then hand water-colored by a team of colorists in the engraver’s studio, also under the artist’s supervision. The 435 plates, originally issued in 4 volumes, comprise the folio, Birds of America, one of the most beautiful books ever produced. The first 10 plates were engraved by William Home Lizars of Edinburgh, Scotland. Labor problems forced Lizars to resign from the project, and Audubon then began his association with Robert Havell, acknowledged master of the aquatint technique. Fewer than 200 complete folios were produced; most today have been separated into individual prints.

Images may be viewed in the Havell Gallery.