The work and reputation of John James Audubon is nothing new. What’s making news this week is that his four-volume set of enormous books, standing 3-1/2 feet high, is expected to sell this month at a Christie’s auction for $7 – $10 million.

AudubonBirds of America, John James Audubon

The book is considered a masterpiece of ornithology art, containing more than 400 hand engraved color plates of the birds he observed in the early 19th century.

AudubonAmerican Goldfinch, John James Audubon

Audubon’s paintings are large so that he could portray the birds at life size. Incorporating beautiful backgrounds and portraying birds in action were uncommon at the time.

AudubonSandhill Crane, John James Audubon

If you can’t make it to the Christie’s auction, don’t despair – you can visit the University of Pittsburgh, which owns one of the rare, complete sets of “Birds of America”.  Only 120 complete sets are known to exist. Of course, much cheaper reproductions abound online and at booksellers, in case you need your own private copy to enjoy.