antique prints, maps and watercolors

Red-headed Duck. The Birds of America. New York: Julius Bien, 1860. $4,250.00

Plate 396." Red-headed Duck"

Twenty years after the completion of John James Audubon’s engraved Birds of America, his son John Woodhouse Audubon began the creation of a reissue of the work using the popular new printing medium of chromolithography. He hired Julius Bien to transfer the images engraved on the copper plates to lithographic stones with a separate plate required for each primary color. The registration of the plates was difficult and in some of the images they did not line up perfectly. The Red-headed Duck was one of the most successful and beautiful of this series “a milestone in American lithography.” (Taylor Clark and Lois Elmer Bannon. Handbook of Audubon Prints, p, 34) The combination of the expense of the enterprise and the disruption in production and payments by subscribers due to the Civil War caused the financial ruin of John Woodhouse Audubon, so very few complete sets of the one volume work were completed. Beautiful, perfectly registered prints such as this one are genuinely rare.

The Red-headed Duck is a beautiful waterbird whose coloring resembles that of the Canvas Back. It nests in marshes but at other times is found on lakes and bays. According to The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, “This beautiful duck has suffered greatly from hunting and the destruction of its habitat; it has declined in numbers until it is one of the least common North American ducks. In many areas the introduction of carp from Eurasia has caused the destruction of its aquatic food plants.” p. 455. It can, however be seen in the winter in California, the Great Lakes and southern New England south to Guatemala and the West Indies.

Chromolithograph.
27 x 40 inches, sheet.
Excellent condition save tape residue on one edge of verso.