Original Octavo Birds

Original Octavo Birds

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.