Authentication of Audubon Prints

 

Havell Double Elephant Folio
Bien Edition
Alecto Restrikes
Amsterdam Edition
Abbeville Edition
Royal Octavo Edition
Imperial Quadrupeds (elephant folio)
Quadrupeds of North American (octavo)

 Havell Double Elephant Folio

  1. Check watermark. It should read “J. Whatman” or “J. Whatman Turkey Mill” with various dates. The watermark should be about six inches wide, with letters about an inch tall.
  2. Check paper size. It should be approximately 28 x 39”, but it is often trimmed to about 26 x 38”. If the sheet has been severely trimmed and is smaller than that, the plate mark will be your most reliable guide (see point 3). Or, measure the size of the bird and compare it to the size of the bird listed in an American bird field guide. The sizes should be approximately the same because Audubon painted his birds life size. This will work for most birds Audubon painted with some notable exceptions such as those that are not actually American (184 Mango Hummingbird, 96 Columbia Jay, 347 Smew and a few others).
  3. Check plate mark. If this is a large bird print (numbers ending in 1 or 6) the plate mark should be at least 24 x 35”. If this is a medium bird print (numbers ending in 2 or 7) the plate mark should be at least 19 x 24”. If this is a small bird print (numbers ending in 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 0) the plate mark should be at least 11 x 18”, with most at 12 x 20”.
  4. Check texture. Touch the paper EXTREMELY lightly and feel for the ink and the watercolor paint which should be slightly raised from the paper.
  5. Check hand-coloring. If it is hand-colored, as it should be, there are always very tiny “errors” at the edges where the paint goes outside the black borders or else does not quite touch the black border.
  6. Check margin text. Consult an Audubon reference book such as Susanne Low’s “A Guide to Audubon’s Birds of America” (published by the owners of Audubon Galleries and sold on this website) which will tell you exactly what the text should be for specific plates you have. There are often several variations of the text for a single plate, and Low’s book will tell you what those variations are. If the text on your plate is not listed, then it is in all likelihood not an original Havell. Make sure there is no printing on the verso of the print.
  7. Check for offset on the verso. Some original Havell prints have a very faint outline of the subsequent print from many years of the plates being stacked together contiguously.

 Bien Edition

  1. Check margin text. The printer’s credit at the lower right should read “Chromolith. By J. Bien, New York” followed by a date of 1858, 1859 or 1860. The part numbers at the upper left are unique to this edition in that they are two Arabic numbers separated by a hyphen, e.g. No. 6-7 (indicating print number 7 from part number 6).
  2. Check paper and watermark. Biens are on wove paper with no watermark.
  3. Check paper size. It should be the same as Havell, or slightly larger.
  4. Some Bien plates combine two smaller images on a single sheet, a feature unique to the Bien edition.

 Alecto Restrikes (6 plates only)

  1. Check stamp on verso which should read “American Museum of Natural History”
  2. Check that the plate number is 1, 6, 121, 221, 201 or 281.
  3. Check hand-coloring. If it is hand-colored, as it should be, there are always very tiny “errors” at the edges where the paint goes outside the black borders or else does not quite touch the black border.
  4. Check paper size. It should be the same as Havell.

 Amsterdam Edition

  1. Check watermark. It should read “G. Schut & Zonen – ® – Audubon” and be along one of the long edges.
  2. Check paper size. It should be the same as Havell.

 Abbeville Edition

  1. Check watermark. It should read “Audubon Society, Abbeville Press” in italic script.
  2. Check paper size. It should be the same as Havell.

 Royal Octavo Edition

  1. Check paper size. It should be approximately 6 x 10”.
  2. Check paper quality. The paper is old, and the left margin is usually a bit ragged where the plate was bound into a book, unless the print has been trimmed.
  3. Check watermark. It should not have a watermark, nor a plate mark.
  4. Check hand-coloring. If it is hand-colored, as it should be, there are always very tiny “errors” at the edges where the paint goes outside the black borders or else does not quite touch the black border.
  5. Check margin text. The text varies depending on the edition. Audubon’s name and the name of the printer are printed in the lower left and right corners, respectively. In the 1st edition ONLY:
    1. Plates 151-185 and 190-500 have Audubon’s name and the printer’s name in ITALICS. All other editions are in block letters.
    2. Plates 136-150 read “Lith. & Printed by Endicott, New York”. All other editions for these plates read “Lith. Printed & Col. By J.T.Bowen, Philad.”
  6. Check background. In the 1st edition only a single lithographic stone was used so there is no background tint around the bird. In subsequent editions, a second stone was used to create a tinted blue-green (and in a few cases beige) sky around the bird. There are a few exceptions and ambiguities (e.g. the gulls, jagers, terns and grouse) but if a print has no tinted background at all it is almost certainly a 1st edition.

 Imperial Quadrupeds (elephant folio)

  1. Check paper size. It should be approximately 22 x 28”.
  2. Check paper quality. It should be heavy old light-cream colored wove paper.
  3. Check watermark. It should not have a watermark, nor a plate mark.
  4. Check hand-coloring. If it is hand-colored, as it should be, there are always very tiny “errors” at the edges where the paint goes outside the black borders or else does not quite touch the black border.
  5. Note: the two editions of Quad Folio prints are virtually indistinguishable from one another.

 Octavo Quadrupeds

  1. Check paper size. It should be approximately 7 x 10”.
  2. Check paper quality. The paper is old, and the left margin is usually a bit ragged where the plate was bound into a book, unless the print has been trimmed.
  3. Check watermark. It should not have a watermark, nor a plate mark.
  4. Check hand-coloring. If it is hand-colored, as it should be, there are always very tiny “errors” at the edges where the paint goes outside the black borders or else does not quite touch the black border.
  5. Note: the two editions of Quad Octavo prints are virtually indistinguishable from one another.