Reproductions of Audubon’s Birds of America

by Waldemar H. Fries

The first reproductions of the Audubon prints made in the United States seem to have been those announced by Forest and Stream in the September 5, 1896 issue I. Here it was stated that a series of halftone reproductions of selected Audubon bird plates were to be included in forthcoming issues, the plates having been photographed especially for this purpose from a copy of the original Double Elephant folio of the work (erroneously dated 1827-1835 in the announcement) in possession of a member of the Forest and Stream Publishing Company.

The first one published appeared on page 243 in the 26 September 1896 issue,3 a reproduction of plate 302, depicting the “Black Duck” (Audubon’s Dusky Duck). The size of the print was 15 inches by 11 inches. It was stated then, “The copies of Audubon now in existence are confined to a few libraries and fewer individual possessions; and when the work falls on the market, as it does now and then, it sells at prices ranging from $2,500 to $3,000.” The reproductions were included as pages of the magazine.

In the 24 October 1896 issue of the magazine, Maria R. Audubon, the Naturalist’s granddaughter, was quoted as saying, “The reproductions to me are most satisfactory; they lack color, of course, but in every other respect are the best we have ever seen, and I think I may say that those of the Audubon family still remaining are much gratified with the first of the series.” Miss Audubon seemed here to intimate that other reproductions had been made. However, none prior to 1896 have been located by the present author.

Reproductions of the following plates (Audubon’s nomenclature in parentheses) were published in Forest and Stream. It has not been possible to determine the date of issue in every instance:

Plate, Title, Date Reproduced
302, Black Duck (Dusky Duck), 26 Sept. 1896
186, Prairie Chicken (Pinnated Grous), 24 Oct. 1896
301, Canvasback (Canvass-backed Duck), 21 Nov. 1896
191, Willow Ptarmigan (Willow Grous or Large Ptarmigan), 19 Dec. 1896
300, American Golden Plover (Golden Plover), 27 Feb. 1897
322, Redhead (Red-headed Duck), 10 July 1897
327, Shoveller (Shoveller Duck), 9 Oct. 1897
286, White-fronted Goose (same) [?]
284, Purple Sandpiper (same), 25 June 1898


In 1937 the Macmillan Company published in one volume not only the reproductions of the 435 prints of the Double Elephant folio edition of the Birds of America but an additional 65 prints from the Octavo edition. The loose prints used for the 435 are at present at the National Gallery in Washington, to which institution they were presented in 1946 by Mrs. Walter B. James.
The work of reproducing the prints was entrusted to the Duenewald Printing Corporation. A regular edition of 50,000 copies which would sell for $12.50 was projected. For this edition a binding of green Bancroft buckram, stamped in gold foil on the front cover and spine, was selected. At the same time trade interest indicated there would be a demand for a limited issue. Accordingly, a special edition of 500 copies, later increased to 2500, to sell at $25, was announced. This latter edition (in a slip case with label) was bound in “Cockerell marble paper of a feather design, with harmonizing buckram spine, gold leaf stamped with gold top.” The pages in both editions are 9 by 12 j inches. 4 The volume was reprinted in 1941, 1942, 1944, and at intervals since, but with the number of prints reduced to 43 5.

It appears that the Macmillan Company also has sold the prints separately from the bound volume. There was presented to the author by Howard C. Rice, formerly assistant librarian at Princeton University, an envelope containing the following reproductions (each 12″ X 9 “) which are identical to those found in the Macmillan bound volume:

18 Best Loved Bird Paintings by Audubon
Suitable for framing –
Includes all the Audubon favorites

  • Summer Tanager
  • Mockingbird
  • Cardinal
  • Purple Finch
  • Blue Jay
  • Bobolink
  • Meadowlark
  • Field Sparrow
  • Wild Turkey
  • Warblers and Bluebirds
  • American Redstart
  • Ruby Throated Hummingbird
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Robin
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove

Handsome Full Color Prints

It is possible that Macmillan used the sets as a promotion or premium item and later “remaindered” them.


In 1946, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company (The Lakeside Press of Chicago began, by a process known as “Deeptone Offset,” the reproduction of the prints of the Birds of America for the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee. These reproductions, measuring approximately 21 by 16 inches, were used on large wall calendars. In 1960 the large-size calendar was discontinued and replaced by a smaller one, with the prints measuring 11 by 16 inches.
The insurance company estimated that between 1946 (when the calendars were first issued and 1968 over 10,000,000 Audubon prints had been distributed. The larger prints without the calendar were still being offered to the public in 1968, but the supply of many of the individual species had been depleted and would not be restocked. Thus far, 185 of the 435 original prints of the Double Elephant folio have been reproduced by Northwestern Mutual.


In 1950 there was offered the so-called “The History Edition of Audubon Prints,” reproduced by special permission of the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, and published by The History Institute of America, Inc., New York City. These reproductions were described as follows: “Each of the twelve Audubon prints, now available, is standard size: Over-all dimensions of paper, 27 7/8 by 22 1/4 inches; this gives pleasing wide margins of 3 to 4 inches.” These prints were priced at $15 each. How many sets were published has not been determined.
The twelve plates reproduced were:

1 Wild Turkey Cock 159 Cardinal
26 Carolina Paroquet 206 Wood Duck
41 Ruffed Grous 221 Mallard Duck
43 Cedar Waxwing 231 Long-billed Curlew
62 Passenger Pigeon 431 Snowy Egret
66 Ivory-billed Woodpecker 159 American Flamingo



It was probably in the early 1950s that there was published by the New York Graphic Society, Fine Art Publishers, New York City, the following reproductions:
1 Wild Turkey 167 Key-West Dove
26 Carolina Parrot 327 Shoveller Duck
61 Pileated Woodpecker 401 Red-breasted Merganser

These reproductions are the size of the original Double Elephant prints, 39 1/2 inches by 26 1/2 inches. All six were displayed in the lobby at the former Princeton Inn, Princeton, NJ.


The author has seen two reproductions, Plate 79, “Tyrant Flycatcher,” and Plate 249, “Snowy Heron or White Egret,” published in 1951 by the American Print Craft Guild, 44 Archer Drive, Bronxville, N.Y. (endorsed by the National Association of Audubon Societies).


Reader’s Digest

In 1959 Reader’s Digest, with the sale of Our Amazing World of Nature, accompanied this book with certain reproductions of the Birds of America which the company states were made from photographs of prints that are part of the Double Elephant folio Collection at the New York Public Library.



In 1964 the New York publishers, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, N.Y., published reproductions of 30 prints of the Double Elephant folio of the Birds of America, size 1’7 by 14 inches, which were sold for $25. A brochure containing the story of the Naturalist and the folio, written by George Dock, Jr., accompanied the set of prints. These reproductions were also offered in England by Heron Books of London. Following is a list of the prints reproduced.
1 Wild Turkey 136 Meadowlark
12 Baltimore Oriole 137 Yellow-breasted Chat
17 Carolina Pigeon 159 Cardinal Grosbeak
26 Carolina Parrot 206 Summer or Wood Duck
53 Painted Finch 211 Great Blue Heron
62 Passenger Pigeon 217 Louisiana Heron
77 Belted Kingfisher 221 Mallard Duck
82 Whip-poor-will 250 Arctic Tern
87 Florida Jay 251 Brown Pelican
91 Broad-winged Hawk 313 Blue-winged Teal
97 Little Screech Owl 357 American Magpie
102 Blue Jay 366 Iceland or Jer Falcon
107 Canada Jay 367 Band-tailed Pigeon
111 Pileated Woodpecker 406 Trumpeter Swan
128 Cat Bird 431 American Flamingo

On one occasion the Book-of-the-Month Club offered these prints as a “BookDividend,” obtainable for two Book-Dividend Certificates plus $4.50.


In the I960s a product promotion campaign of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation of Neenah, Wis., used a selection of twenty-four 8- by 6-inch lithographed reproductions of Audubon’s Birds of America, produced “especially for Kleenex Man Size Tissues with the cooperation of the National Audubon Society.” Each package of the tissues contained a single reproduction and on the back of each was printed an offer of the entire set of twenty-four reproductions which included “Audubon’s American Eagle, garden and game birds from all sections of the United States” for $1 and the premium seal from a box containing the product. The offer was withdrawn when the supply of reproductions was exhausted.


Woman’s Day

In the 1960s Woman’s Day magazine, at that time published for the Atlantic & Pacific Stores, offered to the public the following reproductions of the Birds of America, the size of which were 11 1/4 inches by 8 1/4 inches:
44 Summer Red-bird 202 Red-throated Diver
87 Florida Jay 327 Shoveller Duck
53 Painted Bunting 354 Louisiana Tanager and Scarlet Tanager
159 Cardinal Grosbeak
188 Boat-tailed Grackle



In 1971 there was offered for subscription a full-sized (98 X 68 cm) facsimile edition of twenty selected plates reproduced from the original folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America limited to 250 copies for the United States, numbered and signed by J. A. C. Roberts, Director, The Ariel Press Ltd., Covent Garden, London, England. The first volume was published in 1972, the price of which was $350.
The twenty subjects selected for the first volume were:

White Throated Sparrow Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole White-crowned Sparrow
Blue Winged Yellow Warbler Pigeon Hawk
Carolina Parrot Summer or Wood Duck
Yellow Bird or American Goldfinch Louisiana and Scarlet Tanager
Painted Bunting White-winged Crossbill
Red-shouldered Hawk Hairy, Red-bellied, Red-shafted, Lewis’,
Red-breasted Woodpeckers
Passenger Pigeon
Snow Owl Band-tailed Pigeon
Florida Jay American Sparrow Hawk
Pileated Woodpecker

A second volume of twenty “horizontal or landscape” plates has been scheduled for publication at a yet-to-be-determined date in 1973. The selection of plates for the second volume had not been completed at the time of this writing nor had a price been set.

The set of the folio from which the reproductions in this two-volume edition of facsimiles are made is that in the collection of the Meiningen State Museum.



In 1971 the Johnson Reprint Corporation of New York and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum of Amsterdam undertook a full-sized, full-color facsimile edition of Audubon’s Birds of America from the prints of the folio at the Tevler’s Museum of Haarlem in the Netherlands, one of the original subscribers. This edition was limited to 250 numbered sets of 435 full-color plates (each measuring 38 1/2 inches high and 26 1/2 inches wide), obtainable either in boxed sets of six portfolios, each portfolio comprising six parts (36 parts in all) of loose plates, or in four handbound, half-leather volumes. The price of a boxed set of portfolios was $5940; of a hand-bound set of four volumes, $6960.
The individual parts of the boxed set of six parts, as well as the individual volumes of the bound set, were issued as each became available. The facsimile edition was completed early in 1973.



A limited edition of ao selected full-sized (98 X 67 cm), full-color (printed in 7 to 9 colors by the collotype process) facsimile plates, reproduced from Audubon’s Birds of America, was issued in 1972 by Herbert Lang et Cie. AG, the antiquarian bookdealers and publishers, of Bern, Switzerland. Each 90-page, half linen, slipcased volume was numbered and specially bound to permit removal of the individual plates. Included, in addition to the ao reproductions, were 4 pages of titles, 6 pages of introduction, and 40 interleaved pages of explanatory text, in German and English. The price per copy was $385.



Other reproductions in the author’s possession include the following prints:
Ruffed Grouse, Tetrao umbellus, Linn. This print is erroneously identified in the upper right corner as “Plate XII” (but actually should be P1.4r) and in the upper left corner is labeled “Deluxe Edition.” The drawing is 13 1/2 by 18 1/2 inches, printed on a sheet 18 9/16 by 23 7/8 inches. The credit line indicates that it was published by J. B. Fisher Co., New York, N.Y., “A Genuine Craft Print.”

Three prints, each 19 7/16 by 16 inches, as follows: Plate 12, Baltimore Oriole; Plate 67, Florida Jay; and Plate 205, Summer or Wood Duck. At the bottom of each print is the statement, “Original, courtesy of Harry Shaw Newman, The Old Print Shop, New York, N.Y.”

Boat-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus major, Vieill. Plate 187. This 21 7/8 by 18-inch reproduction was issued “By A. Inc. 1937, Engraved, Printed and Colored by A.P.P. Co., Inc., N.Y. Endorsed by the National Association of Audubon Societies,” according to the statement on the print.

Red-shouldered Hawk, plate 56. This reproduction is 23 j by 16j inches and, according to the statement on the verso, was “Printed in Switzerland. Edita Lausanne.”

Summer Red-bird. The size of this reproduction is 2o by 15 V, inches. The credit line in the lower left corner attributes this to “Penn Prints, New York.” In the upper left corner, the plate is incorrectly identified as No. 42 and in the upper right corner as Plate 208 (should be No. 9, p1.42). No additional information is available.



In 1969 the National Audubon Society, with the cooperation of the National Gallery of Art, offered five sets of ten slides each of the Birds of America. Each 2-by-2-inch slide was from an original photograph taken with a special camera produced by Eastman Kodak Company for the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The gallery had permitted the National Audubon Society to make 400 copies each of 50 selected prints of Audubon’s Double Elephant folio edition of the Birds of America, of which the gallery possesses the only original, unbound copy in the United States. The cost of the sets to purchasers was: 1 set, $5; 3 sets, $14.50; 5 sets, $23.50. The sets consisted of the following prints:
Set 1 Original Plate Nos.
1. Hooping Crane 226
2. Yellow-breasted Chat 137
3. Mallard Duck 221
4. Great Horned Owl 61
5. Passenger Pigeon 62
6. Carolina Pigeon or Turtle Dove 17
7. Meadow Lark 36
8. Black Skimmer or Shearwater 323
9. Belted Kingfisher 77
10. American Magpie 357

Set 2
1. Roseate Spoonbill 321
2. Summer Red Bird 44
3. Canvas-backed Duck 301
4. Fish Hawk 81
5. Carolina Parrot 26
6. Cedar Bird 43
7. Cat Bird 128
8. Yellow Shank (Lesser Yellowlegs) 288
9. Florida Jay 87
10. Barn Swallow 173

Set 3
1. American Flamingo 431
2. Blue jay 102
3. Summer Duck 206
4. Swallow-tailed Hawk (Kite) 72
5. Ivory-billed Woodpecker 66
6. Gold-winged Woodpecker (Flicker) 37
7. Black Yellow Warbler (Magnolia Warbler) 123
8. Roseate Tern 240
9. Fish Crow 146
10. American White Pelican 311

Set 4
1. Snowy Heron or White Egret 242
2. Rose-breasted Grosbeak 127
3. Hooded Merganser 232
4. Mottled Owl (Screech Owl) 97
5. Trumpeter Swan 406
6. House Wren 83
7. White-breasted Black-capped Nuthatch 152
8. Great Northern Diver or Loon 306
9. Pileated Woodpecker 111
10. Great American Cock (Wild Turkey) 1

Set 5
1. Louisiana Heron 217
2. Baltimore Oriole 12
3. Goosander (American Merganser) 331
4. Broad-winged Hawk 91
5. Long-billed Curlew 231
6. Yellow-billed Cuckoo 2
7. White-crowned Sparrow 114
8. Black-bellied Darter (Water Turkey) 30
9. Whip-poor-will 82
10. Glossy Ibis 387

After the original issue of slides was sold the project was discontinued.



In the autumn of 1970 Reed & Barton, Silversmiths, of Taunton, Mass., offered for sale an ii-inch plate with the reproduction of an Audubon Double Elephant folio bird on it, the Pine Siskin from Plate I8o, the first in a series, handcrafted in the firm’s patented “Damascene” process. The second of the series, the Redshouldered Hawk, reproduced from Audubon’s Plate 56, was issued in 1971 and the third, that of the Stilt Sandpiper, from Audubon’s Plate 344, in 1972. The Red Cardinal from his Plate 159 is the 1973 reproduction. It is planned to issue the following Audubon plates in future editions:
Plate Plate
168 Fork-tailed Flycatcher 382 Sharp-tailed Grouse
336 Yellow-crowned Night Heron 369 Bay Breasted Warbler
The edition of each plate is limited to 5,000.



In September of 1973 the National Audubon Society offered to its members a Limited Edition collector’s item, the Rare and Endangered Birds Silver-Ingot Series. The designer of the series, D. George Andrew Woloch, began with Audubon’s depiction of the twelve birds chosen and then fashioned each into an example of the sculptor’s art. Each one-ounce, pure .999 fine silver ingot will be mounted with an authorized reproduction of the original John James Audubon painting on which the sculpture was based. The unit price of each framed reproduction with ingot was $29.50 (unframed $15.5o), and the society stated that only io,ooo first edition sets would be minted.
The following Audubon prints were selected for reproduction:

16 Peregrine Falcon Great-footed Hawk
66 Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Ivory-billed Woodpecker
81 Osprey Fish Hawk
126 Bald Eagle White-headed Eagle
185 Bachman’s Warbler Bachman’s Warbler
186 Greater Prairie Chicken Pinnated Grous
208 Eskimo Curlew Esquimaux Curlew
226 Whooping Crane Hooping Crane
251 Brown Pelican Brown Pelican
261 Sandhill Crane Hooping Crane
281 Great White Heron Great White Heron
426 California Condor Californian Vulture


Among the historic landmarks in Natchez, Miss., is Green Leaves, the home of Mrs. Melchior Beltzhoover, which was built prior to the War of 1812. One of the treasures of the home is a set of china with a different bird or flower on each plate, reputed to have been painted by Audubon.
Audubon had visited Natchez the last week of 1820 while en route to New Orleans and again for a longer period in the late spring and summer of 1823. On the latter occasion both he and his son were seriously ill. It has not been possible to find a reference to Audubon’s having painted any china while in Natchez. That at Green Leaves has been examined by the present author who found the style of the painted birds and flowers to be radically different from that employed in the drawings of the Birds of America.

In 1959 the author was advised by the curator of Villa Louis, at Prairie du Chien, Wis., that in the museum there were, in addition to the Octavo edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, ten plates painted by the Naturalist. These have not been examined by the author.


Reproductions from the prints of the Double Elephant folio on china have been produced in England by the firm of William Adams & Sons, Potters Ltd., Tunstall.
In the mid-I93os the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company was commissioned to produce a set of twenty-four service plates, each bearing a subject selected from Audubon’s Birds of America “in observance of the centenary of this great work,” the 87 numbers of which had been issued as completed between 1826 and 1838. The idea for this “collector’s set” of commemorative plates originated with the English publishing house of A. C. & H. W. Dickins. Each subject portrayed on the individual plates was painted by hand “within a border of two tones of celadon green enriched with gold, the Worcester factory having revived for this purpose the long disused process of `honey gilding,’ in which the powdered gold is mixed with beeswax and honey.” Only a small number of sets were produced, for each plate required II firings and took 3o days to complete. When the stipulated number of sets had been made, the Worcester factory destroyed the original design models to ensure that no more would be produced.

The author has in his possession eight cups and saucers and eight plates on which there are reproductions of the following Audubon birds:

Plate Plate
17 Columba carolinensis
Carolina Turtle Dove 79 Tyrannus tyrannus
18 Thryomanes Bewicki
Bewick’s Wren 114 Zonotrichia leucophrys
White Crowned Sparrow
43 Bombycilla carolinensis
Cedar Bird 168 Muscivora tyranus
Forked-tailed Flycatcher
62 Columba migratoria
Passenger Pigeon 367 Columba fasciata
Band-tailed Pigeon

On each cup and saucer is found a seal in the form of a crown, the letter “A,” and the name, Alfred Meakin England, followed by the Audubon plate number and Latin name of bird, and the statement, “Reproduced from the Elephant Folio Edition of Audubon’s Birds of America endorsed by National Audubon Society, New York,” followed by Audubon’s name of the bird figured.

Inquiry at the National Audubon Society regarding these brought the following information:

All I can find out here is that our Service Department at one time, about five or so years ago, sold some Meakin dinnerware of the type you describe. Subsequently Meakin discontinued that line. We never did have their address as this dinnerware was purchased for us through Mr. Donald Miller of Maddock & Miller, 129 Fifth Avenue, New York City.