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Duff Hart-Davis

Audubon's Elephant

Editions of Audubon's Birds of America fetch high prices at auction nowadays, but when they were originally produced it took a considerable amount of effort to find buyers. In Audubon's Elephant: The story of John James Audubon's epic struggle to publish 'The Birds of America' Duff Hart-Davis tells of what Audubon went through.

Initially Audubon painted pictures without thinking of publication, but was persuaded that his pictures were better than ones which were being sold, and so he saw them as a way of earning a living. However, he found it difficult to enter the market for such pictures in the USA, and so in 1826 he travelled to Britain to start looking for subscribers. We hear of the long years away from his family searching for subscribers and dealing with the problems of publishing large colour pictures. Eventually his efforts paid off, and his pictures brought in sufficent income to support his family and his desire for travel.

It's an interesting story, but I felt that if it's supposed to be a 'Rags to Riches' tale, then it could have been structured better to support this theme. Audubon seemed to be losing money throughout, and at one point landed in debtor's prison, but clearly things came right in the end - I'd have liked to have heard more about when the 'break even' point was actually reached. The book's worth reading if you're interested in the subject matter, or in the impressive pictures, but perhaps less so just for the story. info
Paperback 216 pages  
ISBN: 0753817888
Salesrank: 3194228
Published: 2004 Orion Pub Co
Amazon price $23.83
Marketplace:New from $20.30:Used from $1.73
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Paperback 192 pages  
ISBN: 0753817888
Salesrank: 1804746
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 2004 Phoenix
Marketplace:New from £4.95:Used from £0.07
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ISBN: 0753817888
Salesrank: 1976244
Weight:0.71 lbs
Published: 1709 Phoenix
Amazon price CDN$ 32.02
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 30.52:Used from CDN$ 2.65
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Product Description
Illegitimate, half-French, half-American, poorly educated, chronically short of money and obsessed with birds, Audubon came to England in 1826 to find a publisher for his extraordinary paintings. He insisted that they must be reproduced on double-elephant folio paper - sheets almost 40 inches by 30 - so that even the largest species could be represented life size, and no-one in America had been prepared to tackle such a gigantic task. Drawing on Audubon's journals, letters to his wife and the archives of the families with whom he stayed and worked, Duff Hart-Davis recreates Audubon's twelve years in Britain in search of patrons and publishers. It is an extraordinary story of an obsessive genius and his observations of people, places and events in early nineteenth-century England and Scotland. 'An attractive account of a publishing story that will be enjoyed both by specialists and by those who don't know one end of a Roseate Spoonbill from another' Daily Telegraph