Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’, the most beautiful book in the world, sells for $9.6 million

The first-edition copy is one of just 13 known to exist, and features 1,037 life-size illustrations

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:53am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 June, 2018, 9:53am

A first edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, one of the most celebrated books of natural history, sold for US$9.65 million at auction in New York on Thursday, Christie’s said.

The huge and richly illustrated 19th century book, featuring more than 400 hand-coloured illustrations of 1,037 life-size birds, is often hailed the most beautiful book ever printed. The auctioned copy was one of just 13 complete sets thought to be remaining in private hands.

Christie’s described it as “among the most superlative copies in private hands of the finest colour-plate book ever produced.”

It said the price, paid by a buyer who wished to remain anonymous, was the second-highest sum paid for the book at auction. Another of the complete sets went for US$10.27 million in 2010.

Audubon’s The Birds of America was first published as a series in sections between 1827 and 1838 and represented his years-long mission to find and paint all the known species of birds in North America.

The book that was sold on Thursday was owned by US businessman and naturist Carl W. Knobloch Jnr, who died in 2016. Proceeds from the sale will benefit conservation of plants, animals and natural habitats through the work of the Knobloch Family Foundation.