Edition of Audubon Prints
Double Elephant Folio"
first edition of Birds of America was created between 1826 and
1838 using a printing process known as engraving. Using a press
which exerted a great amount pressure, the designs which were
etched into copper plates were printed in black ink onto heavy
paper. Afterwards, the prints were hand-colored by skilled painters
J. Audubon originally created his series of prints with the assistance
of master engravers Robert Havell Sr and his son Robert Havell
Jr. The complete set of Havell engravings is commonly known as
the "Double Elephant" folio and/or The Havell Edition.
The term "double elephant" was a printers term referring
to the largest paper available for printing at the time.
engravings are the largest of the valuable Audubon prints and
measure 39.5" x 26.5".
images comprise the Havell Edition and approximately 175 folios
are on J Whatman paper and bears one of two watermarks that can
be difficult to see.
to see the watermark
the print is unframed, backlighting should reveal the faint mark
located in the margins. Hold the print up to a lamp or other light
source (not fire, of course) and the watermark should illuminate,
though often very faintly.
method is to shine a light at an angle onto the front of the print.
This can make the impression of the watermark appear with shadows.
the aging of the paper and/or it's treatment through during it's
history may cause the watermark to show to the naked eye.
the years, many backs of the prints have been glued in the process
of framing rendering their opacity nearly 100 percent and the
watermark no longer visible in this manner.
many original subscribers in the mid-1800's chose to cut down
the original large paper, perhaps to fit existing frames. Many
times this resulted in the trimming off of the watermark. This
significantly reduces the value of the Audubon print and creates
a challenge to authentication.