John James Audubon's Birds of America flies to $7.9m in Christie's book auction

Christie's much anticipated sale of John James Audubon's Birds of America has just concluded within the past couple of hours.

This is the famous elephant-folio edition of Audubon's work, showing extraordinary images of America's birds, for which the edition number probably ran to around 200. Of these, 13 remain in private hands.

Completed and published over 11 years from 1827 to 1838, it is considered the highest achievement in ornithological art.

John James Audubon Birds of America
An eagle captures its prey in John James Audubon's Birds of America

The three-foot high pages feature Audubon's stunning life-size illustrations in this magnificent four volume set of 435 hand-coloured engravings.

The copy in question is the Duke of Portland copy, the one from the Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck family collection with the underground library amongst a strange tunnelling system.

Christie's auction was part of a two day auction process, but this work was given a timespace all to itself. Another copy currently holds the record for the most valuable book in the world, having sold for £7.3m last year.

In the end, the Duke of Portland copy did not beat the record, but sold as expected within its estimate for $7.9m. Who knows when another will be offered?

Owl and Pelican from John James Audubon's Birds of America
Owl and Pelican from John James Audubon's Birds of America

Francis Wahlgren, Christie's International Head of Books & Manuscripts, commented:

“Audubon’s masterpiece, The Birds of America, sold for an impressive $7.9 million, the third highest price for a printed book at auction. This strong result for Audubon’s masterpiece confirms its iconic status and now holds the top three auction records for printed books.Christie's has sold four out of the five most valuable printed books ever sold at auction.”

Collectors on the lookout for works by great artists are in luck. Unbelievably, we are currently offering an original sketch by one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Salvador Dali.

The nude work is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from the Galerie St. Tropez and we are naturally confident about the future value of the work - so much so in fact that it qualifies for our unique 120% guarantee.

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