An impassioned lifelong naturalist, ornithologist and painter, Audubon insisted each print be life-sized, to give a true impression of each bird. A bound copy of the book is monumental. Each sheet is 39 x 26 inches, known as “double elephant,” the largest size paper then available. This increases the impact of each gorgeously rendered bird. The vibrant color, meticulous detail and masterful composition make the birds real in a visceral way.
It took eleven years, from 1827-1838, to print just 200 copies of the first edition. Only 120 complete sets are known to exist, with 107 in libraries and institutions and 13 with private collectors.