Taken from the Guardian online...
A copy of the world's most expensive book, John James Audubon's 19th-century masterpiece Birds of America, is set for auction later this month and is expected to sell for up to $10m (£6.5m).
Only 120 complete sets of Audubon's 435 hand-coloured, life-sized engravings of
The auction house has given the edition a guide price of $7m-$10m, leaving experts to wonder if it will break 2010's record when it opens to bids on 20 January in
Davies said that while the estimated value of the Duke of Portland set is "sky high ... [it] is in excellent condition [and] if the record does fall, then no one should be overly surprised because a rare book like this is recession-proof".
Measuring over three feet in height and running to four volumes, The Birds of America was created by Audubon between 1827 and 1838. The illegitimate son of a French sea captain and his creole mistress, Audubon was an itinerant artist who travelled
Whatever Birds of America is, said rare book dealer and author Rick Gekoski, "it isn't a book, not in any normal sense of the term". In fact, the volumes consist of "a large number of works of art – original hand-coloured engravings – bound together for ease of storage and reference," he said. "The format was chosen not out of any grandiosity but because it was Audubon's remarkable desire – and ability – to produce life-sized engravings of each bird. Thus the finches and cardinals have plenty of space in which to flit about, while the flamingo and trumpeter swan tilt their necks graciously inward and arrange themselves with some care. The effect of this is just terrific."
Picking up a copy of the "book" is a two-person job, said the dealer, who examined an edition at Sotheby's once prior to an auction. "The (very nervous) resident expert and I (gingerly) turned the pages together, him at the top and me at the bottom, and peeled them back (respectfully) into just the right conjunction with the rest of the plates," said Gekoski. "You have to be careful how you handle a gargantuan book worth more than 10 million dollars."
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