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:
This chart is from:
Handbook of Audubon Prints
by Lois Elmer Bannon and Taylor Clark
Fourth Edition, 1998
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,
This triptych, from the collection of C. Zura & B. Cirrinone,
uncolored proof of a 1st Royal Octavo Edition print circa 1840,
a 1st Royal Octavo Edition circa 1841,
and a 2nd Edition circa 1856 of Plate 79, Yellow-throated Wood Warbler.
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.