Now THAT'S a book! A Sotheby's auction house employee lends scale to the massive tome that is John James Audubon's Birds of America. An intact edition just sold at auction for a jaw-dropping $10,207,000, making it the world's most costly book.
Everything about Birds of America is epic. Its size, the dramatic and vivid quality of the 435 plates within, and of course the artist himself. Audubon's depictions of birds have always been my my favorites, and ditto for many others. I have a miniature reproduction of Birds of America, with all 435 plates, and look at it every day as it sits open to one plate or another on a shelf on my office. People who visit are often drawn to the plates.
I have also seen one of the 119 copies that are thought to still be in existence. The real deal is magnificent; alluring enough that someone would pay the price of yacht to own one. Only 11 copies are believed to be in private hands, so this opportunity doesn't come along very often. The book's original cost, in the mid-1800's, was about $1000.
Audubon was an ultra-keen observer of animals, and was an absolute master at capturing their personalities. Note the jay on the left. Quite the piggish fellow; so eager for the succulent yolk that he has impaled the egg on his bill. But that's just how these birds behave. It's as if Audubon virtually brought the birds to life on the page.
The plates within this magnificent book are much more than an assemblage of art pieces. They are a documentary of one of the world's greatest artists, who lived an extraordinary life of frontier adventure, at a time when America was poorly known and few had looked it its birds.
Congratulations to the lucky - and wealthy - new owner.