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Invest in the past! Audubon Birds of America fine art prints.  908.510.1621

John James Audubon Prints: Birds of America & Quadrupeds

Audubon originals and the world’s only direct camera life-size Audubon prints.

Welcome home to Princeton Audubon Prints where you can invest in the past. Audubon prints are spectacular moments of calmer times. Between 1827 and 1838, John James Audubon, brilliant artist and naturalist, published in London, England, in his own style, a series of 435 large-sized, hand-colored etchings with aquatints in a folio entitled The Birds of America. These were reproduced primarily by Robert Havell and Sons from Audubon’s watercolor studies that had earlier been composed during Audubon’s several journeys throughout the young United States. We purchased these actual original engravings in order to accurately produce The Princeton Audubon Double Elephant Edition - The world’s only direct camera Audubon Birds of America Prints. Nature is always in style so feather your nest with exceptional-quality Audubon prints.

“With their astounding detail, definition, and color, the Princeton direct-camera facsimiles have long set the standard in Audubon Birds of America lithographs." - Louise Mirrer, Director, The New-York Historical Society.

“True prints, true colors, incredible detail. Princetons are simply the finest Audubon facsimiles ever made!” - William Steiner, Audubon collector and author of Audubon Prints: A Collector’s Guide To Every Edition.

"The Princeton Collection reproductions of Audubon's birds offer an incredible value. The quality of color, definition and paper are fantastic and far beyond expectations." - Ben Frishman, Audubon print expert and owner of Rare-Prints Gallery, Austin, Texas, USA.

"Of all the Audubon reproductions, Princetons come the closest in appearance and quality to the originals." - Chris Lane, owner of Philadelphia Print Shop West and frequent guest appraiser on PBS Antiques Roadshow.

Above- Special offer #1: Add the Long-billed Curlew above to your cart. Then add any print from our premier (Double Elephant - 26 1/4 x 39 1/4) Gallery 1 to your cart. The cart will automatically discount your Gallery 1 choice by 50%.

Below- Special offer #2: Add any two of our reduced-size (Baby Elephant - verticals 17 1/2 x 26; horizontals 19 x 23) Essex New-York Historical Society Edition fine art prints to your cart, click Checkout and then apply coupon code EssexFree. Your second choice is on us!

About Princeton Audubon Prints: Not your father’s Audubons.

Princeton Audubon Limited was founded in 1985 by the late David Johnson, a collector of superb Audubon originals who earlier founded the days paramount printing company - Princeton Polychrome Press in Princeton, New Jersey. This company, now sold, achieved an enviable nationwide reputation by reproducing fine art prints for the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Detroit Institute of Arts. Much of the fine art you see on the secondary market today was reproduced by Princeton through its proprietary direct camera process. We continue to produce absolutely accurate fine art today. You will not find these prints on Amazon, Wayfair or the like. We offer fine art unlike any offered elsewhere. Our prints are not inexpensive, as we purchased the actual originals in order to give you the finest in Audubon art. Read more.
Princeton Audubon Double Elephant Edition, Double elephant (life size - 26 1/4 x 39 1/4) •Limited edition of 1500. •Pencil-numbered and embossed with the Princeton Audubon Limited seal. •Up to 11 color plates used. •Specially developed fade-proof inks. Absolute color fidelity to the actual original. •Printed on a 300 line. •Very heavy archival paper which is recommended by the Library of Congress for archives and is specially toned to match the actual color of the antique originals. •Registered to purchaser. •As permanently displayed at The Royal Society of London, to which Audubon belonged as a Fellow.

An early observation ...

"Today I saw the swiftest skater I ever beheld; backwards and forwards he went like the wind, even leaping over large air-holes fifteen or more feet across, and continuing to skate without an instant's delay. I was told he was a young Frenchman, and this evening I met him at a ball, where I found his dancing exceeded his skating; all the ladies wished him as a partner; moreover, a handsomer man I never saw, his eyes alone command attention; his name, Audubon, is strange to me.“ - David Pawling, Mill Grove PA., January 1805, on 19 year old John James Audubon.

Did you know ...?

All birds in the foreground of Audubon’s double elephant compositions are always life size, exactly as they are seen in nature, to which he adds, "Merely to say, that each of my illustrations is of the size of nature, were too vague ... Not only is every object, as a whole, of the natural size, but also every portion of each object. The compass aided me in its delineation, regulated and corrected each part, ... The bill, the feet, the legs, the claws, the very feathers as they project one beyond another, have been accurately measured." John James Audubon. Ornithological Biography, Volume 1. Larger birds were often presented in feeding positions in order to fit within the paper. Interestingly, the unique plate number (from 1 to 435) appearing at the top right above each larger bird will always end with a 1 or 6. Why? Audubon released prints to subscribers in groups of five, with the first print in each group generally a large bird or a full page composition. Plate number one in the first grouping of five prints was the huge male Wild Turkey. The first plate number in the second grouping of five, plate six, was the equally large female Wild Turkey.

Audubon Print Primer

"Having studied drawing for a short while in my youth under good masters, I felt a great desire to make choice of a style more particularly adapted to the imitation of feathers than the drawings in water colours that I had been in the habit of seeing, and moreover, to complete a collection not only valuable to the scientific class, but pleasing to every person, by adopting a different course of representation from the mere profile-like cut figures, given usually in works of that kind." John James Audubon.

Between 1827 and 1838, John James Audubon, brilliant artist and naturalist who dedicated much of his life to painting the birds and quadrupeds of North America, published in London, England, in 'his own style', a series of 435 large-sized, hand-colored etchings with aquatints in a folio entitled The Birds of America. These were reproduced primarily by Robert Havell and Sons from Audubon's watercolor paintings and often under the direct supervision of Audubon himself.

Since he portrayed each bird life size, the larger birds often had to be drawn in unusual positions to fit on the largest copper engraving plates then available, approximately 27 x 39 inches. The largest bird was the wild turkey cock, and the smallest was one of the minute hummingbirds. With the final publication of these prints, Audubon established his Birds of America as the definitive portrayal of American birds in realistic settings.

These antique original prints, now more than 170 years old, are known in the print trade as the Audubon-Havell double elephant folio edition because each was printed on giant "double elephant" folio sheets of 100% cotton rag watermarked Whatman paper. Somewhat more than 200 complete sets were sold. The exact number was not accurately recorded, but most were bound in four large volumes for the subscribers. It is estimated that there are about 130 of the complete bound sets of these original prints still in existence. There are also known to be at least three unbound, flat sheet sets, one of which is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

In recent years a number of complete volumes have been cut apart and auctioned off as individual prints at ever-increasing prices. The American White Pelican, the Snowy Owl, and the Wild Turkey Cock can sell for upwards of $100,000 each if in good condition. A Snowy Owl was recently offered by a New York dealer for $125,000. Recently, a complete set brought over $11,000,000 at auction.

Audubon original editions can be confusing. We'll help you sort it all out.


Preparatory Watercolor Compositions

"My drawings were first made entirely in watercolors."

Not watercolors in the sense we are accustomed to, as Audubon's watercolors used mixed-media, such as papers, adhesives, glazes, pastels, graphite, oil paint, egg white, gouache, chalk and more.

The watercolors were Audubon's original works, preparatory compositions or studies to the subsequent producing of the Birds of America. These watercolors were often painted by Audubon 'on the spot' in the field. The collection of 433* watercolors that Audubon supplied for his paramount work, the Birds of America, stands as the world's preeminent natural history document of the 19th century, and one of arts finest achievements. The freshness, eloquence, and grace of his watercolors reveal a meticulous observation of the natural world.

Audubon's watercolors depicted for the first time, life-size, all known species of North American birds in characteristic poses. Each painting presented a drama in the life of the subject, and Audubon succeeded in surpassing what he viewed as the stilted and constrained efforts of previous naturalists. Their works were, in his words, 'stiff.' Audubon's images live to this very day..

"As I wandered, mostly bent on the study of birds, and with a wish to represent all of those found in our woods, to the best of my powers, I gradually became acquainted with their forms and habits, and the use of my wires was improved by constant practice." John James Audubon

After acquiring specimens, Audubon inserted wires in freshly killed birds to simulate lifelike postures. These models were then positioned in front of a grid background, so as to draw them accurately to scale.

Not easily satisfied with his drawings, Audubon often wrote notes on the drawing itself so that the engravers and colorists who were to follow would enhance his work.

Doubtless, considering the working conditions in the field, lack of modern optical equipment, and his being self-taught, the producing of these watercolors represents a monumental achievement.

The watercolors themselves were never reproduced as such by Audubon, as they were a means to the end, a preparatory step to the final goal of producing and publishing prints from engravings based on the watercolors. It is truly amazing that the vast majority of the original watercolors, are still in existence. Audubon's widow, Lucy Bakewell Audubon, sold them in 1863 to the New-York Historical Society. We suggest you take the time to see these priceless works of America's most famous artist/naturalist.

* Although there are 435 engravings in the completed Birds of America, these were produced from 433 watercolors. Two of the 433 were each the basis for two etchings. Two are also missing, thus the collection of original watercolors in the New-York Historical Society today totals 431.

Having a substantial number of watercolors now ready for engraving, Audubon traveled to Philadelphia, then the center of publishing in the young United States. However, he was unable to find a publisher willing to produce his works, and thus brought his art abroad to England.

He first contracted with a William Lizars of Edinburgh. After completing only ten etchings, Lizars' colorists went on strike, and Audubon was forced to find another publisher. This would be Robert Havell, Jr. of London, whose engravings were considered superior to those of Lizars

Original Double Elephant Birds of America

These are sometimes termed the Audubon/Havell prints, Havell being the primary engraver. These prints were produced by using as a basis the watercolor compositions or studies that Audubon accomplished mainly in the open field. These were then taken to London, where Havell's shop was located. Havell, often under the direct supervision of Audubon himself, would then engrave with precision tools a reverse image of the watercolor study. These engravings were on copper plates, some plates being as large as 27 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches, and others being smaller for the smaller images.

When finished, the plates were inked and dampened paper ( all paper being double elephant size, 27 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches, untrimmed) was placed upon them, and then both were run through rollers of a press. The paper was then pulled, or peeled off the plate. What resulted was a properly oriented black and white image, no longer reversed.

Each black and white print was then colored by a team of colorists employed by Havell, closely noting not only the watercolor studies, but also notes that Audubon himself often wrote upon the watercolors. It is these prints then, that are finally referred to as the Audubon originals.

Most of these originals were then bound together in four leather books. Over the years many have been unbound and the binding holes trimmed away. Thus, there may be small variations in the above size. Further, the large borders of some smaller images were often trimmed away by owners, in order to fit their print into a smaller frame.

The Octavo Bird Editions

When the production of the double elephant prints was nearing its completion, Audubon began a new undertaking. This was to be a miniature edition of the Birds of America, accompanied by text. This work is often termed The Royal Octavo Edition, the octavo referring to the size of the paper being about 1/8 the size of a normal folio, or about 6 1/2 x 10 1/2inches. Audubon himself called it "The Birds in Miniature" and you will also hear it simply being termed the 'miniatures'. It was produced in Philadelphia, USA, by John T. Bowen.

Octavo editions were reductions of originals, this being accomplished through the camera lucida process, which through the use of a prism, allowed Bowen to project a reverse image of the original print in reduced size onto the smaller stone. (These were stone lithographs, not copper plate engravings)

The first edition, and the most sought after by collectors of the miniatures, was published in 1840-44. About 1,198 sets of the first edition were produced. It was printed and colored by J. T. Bowen in Philadelphia, although plates 136 - 150 were done by Endicott in New York. The publisher of the first edition was Audubon himself in New York, and J. B. Chevalier in Philadelphia. Other octavo editions of the birds followed the death of Audubon in 1851, these being dated: 1856 and published by Victor G. Audubon; 1859 also published by Victor Audubon using Roe Lockwood and Son of New York; 1860 also by Victor Audubon and Lockwood; 1861 by John Woodhouse Audubon and Lockwood; 1863 (no information available); 1865 by John Woodhouse Audubon, New York; and 1871 by George R. Lockwood.

The Imperial Quadrupeds

This incredibly detailed work is officially termed The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. These mammals of North America were published in three volumes, dating 1845, 1846, and 1848. Somewhat more that 303 Imperial sets were printed. These are rare and very valuable today. These lithographs were printed on paper sized at 22 x 28 inches, termed the imperial size, and also defined as the elephant size. (Note that this is smaller than the double elephant size of 27 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches.) Besides the size, these prints are identified by the legend at the lower right "Lith. Printed & Cold. by J.T. Bowen, Phila."

The Octavo Quadrupeds

Audubon's sons saw the need to reduce the size of the Imperials, and beginning in 1849, the octavo edition of The Quadrupeds of North America was published in three volumes. Volume 1 was followed in 1851 with the second volume, and the final, the third volume was published in 1854. Between 1,999 and 2,004 sets were published in this first edition. The size for these editions was about 6 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches. A second edition was published in 1852-54, a third in 1856-60, and a fourth in 1870.

The Bien Edition

The Bien edition prints of the Birds of America were produced by the Audubon family, and thus are properly termed originals. Unlike the Havell edition prints which were produced in England, the Bien Edition prints were produced completely in America. Thus, they are truly American originals. In 1858, about seven years after John James Audubon passed away, his younger son John Woodhouse Audubon initiated an ambitious project to reissue the Birds of America to solve some of the mounting financial problems. He recruited the Roe Lockwood Company in New York city to publish the works and Julius Bien for lithography. Unlike the Havells which were produced from copper engraving plates, Julius Bien utilized the newly emerging chromolithography process as a way of reducing the costs of production.

Chromolithography utilized different sets of printing stones to produce a given plate, some with different colors to produce the final colored image. The use of different stones occasionally resulted in very slight misregister of colors on the dark outlines of birds and background, thus serving as a charming reminder of chromolithography process. Larger images were printed on a single page as in the Havell edition, whereas smaller images were printed two per page. All the larger images as well as some smaller images carry the credit "Chromolithy by J. Bien, New York, 1860". Thus these images are commonly referred to as the Bien edition plates.

Unfortunately, the start of the Civil War in 1860 brought an abrupt end to this project (and a financial ruin to the Audubon family) after only about 105 pages were printed. It was said that about 100 copies of each page (with bird images) were produced, but most of them did not survive.

Audubon Print Abbreviations & Numbering

"I am feted, feasted, elected honorary member of societies, making money by my exhibition and by my painting." John James Audubon

Many have wondered about the abbreviations appearing on the lower edge of Audubon prints, and by the system of numbering for various editions of Audubon prints. The following may be helpful.


M.W.S. (Member of the Wernerian Society)

F.R.S.E. (Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh)

F.L.S. (Fellow of the Linnean Society)

F.R.S. (Fellow of the Royal Society)

Explanation of print numbering

(Double elephant folio)

You will find two numbers on each Audubon print, one at the top left and another at the top right. What do these signify?

Audubon, Lizars, and Havell produced about 200 engravings each of 435 different images. These engravings were released to the public in sets (also called 'numbers') of five prints each. There were 87 different sets (or numbers) of five prints each that were required to publish all 435 prints. These sets usually contained one large bird, one mediumsize , and three smaller birds. The five birds in any one set would have the same set number. It is thus a group number. Therefore, the number found usually in the upper left corner of each print is the group number for every bird print released in that particular set of five.

The number usually found in the upper right hand corner is the individual plate number, from 1 to 435, and it is most often in Roman numerals.

You will sometimes find much smaller numbers, such as 1 or 2, immediately next to a bird on many prints. These correspond to the same number shown in the script area below the image and designates the sex or if the bird is an adult or immature.

Audubon references

Audubon information you can use.

Audubon Octavo Print “States” Versus “Editions”, Plus Valuations, Collecting, and the Marketplace.

Reproduced by permission of the author - Ron Flynn Audubon Octavo Print “States” Versus “Editions”, Plus Valuations, Collecting, and the...

A Brief Introduction to Audubon and the Original Editions

Reproduced by permission of the author - Ron Flynn A Brief Introduction to Audubon and the Original Editionsby Ron Flynn...

Do You Really Own A 1st Edition Octavo Quad Print?

Reproduced by permission of the author - Ron Flynn Do You Really Own A 1st Edition Octavo Quad Print?by Ron...

A Bien Reissue?

Reproduced by permission of the author - Ron Flynn A Bien Edition Reissue?By Ron FlynnFor many years, the question of...

About Princeton Audubon

Note: If you wish to consign your original Audubons please call us at 908.510.1621, or contact us through this form.

Princeton Audubon Limited was founded in 1985 by the late David Johnson, a collector of superb Audubon originals who also founded the days paramount printing company - Princeton Polychrome Press. This company, now sold, achieved an enviable nationwide reputation by reproducing fine art prints for the National Gallery of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Detroit Institute of Arts. The finest reproductions of Picasso and Andrew Wythe that you occasionally see on the market today were produced by Princeton. At the zenith of Dave Johnson’s career and using exceptional artistic resources, David Johnson re-created the actual originals from his world renowned personal collection. Using the direct-camera technique that he pioneered, along with oversized Kodak film with its infinite retention of detail, he produced these award winning one-of-a-kind re-creations. Many who consider purchasing our prints call and ask how Princetons compare with the Amsterdam and Abbeville editions. We actually bid on the printing of the Amsterdam Edition. (If we had won, it would be called The Princeton Edition) The publisher was The Johnson Reprint Company which was a division of Harcourt Brace, for whom we did much printing. We were given the opportunity to examine the 8 x 10 transparencies from which the Edition was to be printed, and they were not very good and would require much expense in color correction, and this was reflected in our bid which was higher than the bid from the company that eventually did the printing. As expected, the poor quality of the transparencies was reflected in the resulting prints. The Amsterdam Edition, said to be only 250, is good but lacks detail since the 8 x 10 images were enlarged. Any enlargements or reductions result in a loss of detail. Princetons, however, were directly produced from the original Audubon/Havell antique engravings, not from 8 x 10 transparencies. Instead of working from a small photograph we purchased the actual originals (from Sotheby's or other auction houses) and brought them into our own printing plant. These originals themselves were then carefully mounted before a giant wall-mounted bellows process camera, with film the same size as the print. Thus the exact image was captured on the same size film, and the large, exact image could then be transferred to mechanical printing plates, without any loss of detail. Abbeville prints were also produced from 8 x 10 transparencies but generally are a step above Amsterdams in quality. Neither the Amsterdam nor Abbeville printing matches the quality and detail of the direct camera process. Modern ink jet editions, or giclees, depend upon the image entered into the computer. They can be very good or over saturated with ink, but they generally do not match the sharpness and definition of detail that you see in Princetons. One exception to this is The Rare Prints Edition which we sell on our website along with our own Princetons and originals. The printing of the Princeton Edition actually began as a test of the craftsmanship of our employees. Dave Johnson, on a trip to New York, saw an Amsterdam Print for sale in a gallery and said “We can do better than that.” So he printed one image, saw the results, and decided to produce our edition.

As we near the end of our edition limit and clear out our archives, we have found two or three sheets of each Princeton image in Gallery 1 that served as proof prints. These were the final prints checked against the originals during press setup to ensure fidelity before authorization was given to run the entire edition. They do not have the Princeton seal, but we will pencil-number them 000/1500. These are discounted and can be found in our Basement

We also offer spectacular Audubon fine art, such as the stunning reduced size Princeton Essex NYHS Edition prints and the exquisite Rare Prints Edition. You may also want to browse our “Basement“ for special offers and rare finds.

We sell Audubon originals including the Havell, Imperial Quadruped, and Octavo bird and Octavo quadrupededitions. We especially recommend our pre-matted Audubon original Octavo birds and pre-matted Audubon original Octavo quadrupeds which are archivally matted with designer colors. These can be displayed as is or simply dropped into frames.

Purchase securely from this website. We also authorize and guarantee sales of our prints from The Audubon House and Gallery in Key West, Florida, The Taylor Clark Audubon Gallery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and The New York Historical Society in New York City. You may also visit your local gallery and have them order the print(s) directly from us. We have also authorized and guarantee sales from the following websites:, Rare, and Phone us if you wish to order by phone or have any questions. 908.510.1621. Thank you for your visit.

“Of all the full-size facsimiles of Audubon's prints, those from Princeton Audubon Ltd. come the closest in appearance and quality to the originals. Combining this with their very reasonable cost make the Princeton Audubon facsimiles winners for those looking to acquire some of the most dramatic American natural history images ever produced." - Chris Lane, Philadelphia Print Shop West, appraiser on Antiques Roadshow. “With their astounding detail, definition, and color, the Princeton direct-camera facsimiles have long set the standard in Audubon Birds of America lithographs." - Louise Mirrer, The New-York Historical Society.


John James Audubon was barely older than the young United States when he arrived and made it his home in 1803. It wasn't long afterward that he journeyed the length of this fresh wilderness, composing over 400 studies, dramatic images of the birds which so fascinated him. Eventually he would cross the Atlantic several times with his latest drawings, in order to have these birds of America engraved by Robert Havell of London into copper plates, then each copperplate was pressed onto about 200 sheets of Whatman paper, and finally all were published as The Birds of America. These precious originals were the prize of Kings and the mighty. Today, most are in the collections of museums. Many have reproduced these originals, usually by copying a small photograph or by sending a scan into a large inkjet printer. But Princeton Audubon, founded by a Master Printer and world renowned collector of Audubon originals, the late David Johnson, actually purchased the antique originals and physically utilized the originals themselves (direct-camera capture lithography) in reproducing our stunning collection of limited edition fine art prints. Princeton double elephants thus have a close connection to the originals which makes them unique and sought-after as true Audubon fine art.
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