Audebon Sotheby's flamingo.jpg
A flamingo, one of the 435 coloured plates depicting 1065 birds in The Birds of America; from Original Drawings by John James Audubon that was published in 1827-38. Image credit: Sotheby's.

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Estimated at $6m-8m, the great double-elephant folio, illustrated with 435 coloured plates, depicts 1065 birds in life size.

The catalogue description by Sotheby’s said: “Audubon’s Birds of America has long been regarded as one of the greatest books ever produced and perhaps the greatest contribution ever made of art in the service of science.”

Bound in contemporary half calf over marbled boards, the four volumes come with a George IV oak folio cabinet c.1830. 

A number of copies of this book have been offered at auction over the years.

In June 2018 Christie’s New York sold the ex-Duke of Portland’s set of Audubon's Birds of America at $8.3m (£6.24m). This price was only bettered in 2010 when Christie’s sold the set from the 2nd Lord Hesketh’s library at £7.32m (then $11.54m).

The Sotheby’s sale features other highlights including an original autograph manuscript of the Olympic Manifesto drafted in 1892 as a speech by Pierre de Coubertin. Coubertin went on to found the International Olympic Committee in Paris in 1894 and his vision, as set forth in this manuscript, culminated with the first modern Games in Athens in 1896. The manuscript is offered with an estimate of $700,000-1m on December 18.