J. J. Audubon’s original edition ‘The Birds of America’, published in 1840, is the most valuable book in the world. In 2010, the four-volume illustrated work sold for $11.5 million to a London fine art dealer and bird enthusiast—the highest price ever paid for a printed book at auction.
From 1827 through 1838, John James Audubon created the 435 life-size bird watercolors that would become Birds of America. His paintings were based on extensive field observations of birds set in their natural habitat. Audubon developed his own method of recreating this environment by shooting them, using wires to recreate the life-like poses, and often portrayed them as if caught in motion while feeding or hunting.
Watch this behind-the-scenes video from the Cincinnati Library for a look at one of their rarest books, the famed Birds of America by naturalist John James Audubon. This book is on permanent display at their main Library and features the incredibly detailed, life-sized illustrations of North American birds. The books are more than four feet wide when opened. Each week they carefully turn one page of the book and display a new bird. It takes the Library eight years to show each series of plates from their collection.