Plate 7 — Red-tailed Hawk: The Bien Edition
An original chromolithograph at the Slater Museum
John James Audubon, Birds of America (c. 1827)
Chromolithograph by J. Bien, Roe Lockwood and Son, New York 1860
In 1858 John James Audubon’s youngest son, John Woodhouse Audubon, undertook a new and ambitious business venture. The project was to be the first American full-sized reissue of his father’s original Birds of America printed in London (1826-1838). The publication was to cost about half the price of the original Birds of America, and was to be sold by subscription (just like the original edition). JW Audubon planned to issue the publication in 44 separate parts — each part consisting of seven sheets or pages, containing a total of 10 full-color plates.
With the advances in color printing at the time, it was decided that the plates would be produced using the very latest techniques in chromolithography. The firm of Roe Lockwood and Son of New York was hired as publisher, and Julius Bien, a pioneer in chromolithography, was contracted as the lithographer. A few years later, at the onset of the Civil War, the Audubons were cutoff from their Southern subscribers, thus halting the production of the Bien Edition and bringing financial ruin to the Audubon family.
When production ceased in 1861, only 15 parts of the 44-part series had been issued (150 of the 440 plates). It is not known exactly how many sets of the original 15 parts were printed, but current estimates are between 75-100, making Bien’s chromolithographs the rarest edition of Audubon’s Birds of America.
Come see this original Audubon chromolithograph and more at the Slater Museum's upcoming Celebration of Art and Science on Wednesday, April 3 from 6PM to 8PM. Gallery open April 1 through April 6, from 9AM to 5PM.