A Field Guide to Ornithological Eye Candy


Abbeville Press’ Collector’s Edition of Audubon’s Birds of America (The Audubon Society’s Baby Elephant Folio)

Since its publication over the years 1827 to 1838, John James Audubon’s The Birds of America has not only stood as the standard for ornithological art, but a testament to book arts.

Paired with the accompanying text to his stunning collection of plates, Ornithological Biography, or, An account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, Audubon’s hard won magnum opus finds completion. The two works were separated to avoid the British law requiring a copy of every publication containing text to be donated to the Crown libraries. Taking into consideration the substantial expense involved in reproducing Audubon’s artwork, including the making of hundreds of copper plates and an assembly line of aqua-tint colorists, as well as the fact that Audubon had to resort to self-publication, furnishing each Crown library with a copy of the text and plates would have been a considerable financial burden.


Ornithological Biography, or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America (7 volumes)

The Abbeville Press editions marry these masterworks with matching fine bindings. Handsome green leather and intricate gilt adorn Audubon’s Birds and their Biographies, resulting in a truly stunning set and the centerpiece of any shelf.


The Abbeville Press editions also wed Audubon, “The American Woodsman,” with the royal family of American bird identification, Roger Tory and Virginia Marie Peterson, renowned environmentalists and founders of Peterson Field Guides. Abbeville’s collector’s edition of Audubon’s Birds of America comes signed by the Petersons, and the Ornithological Biography 7 volume set includes commentaries on Birds of America by the Petersons.


Signed by Roger Tory and Virginia Marie Peterson

Audubon’s indefatigable spirit is truly honored in this collection of and commentary on his work, as the concluding words of the Petersons’ introduction to this edition attest:

“Audubon will always live in the minds of nature-oriented Americans. Creative forces were at work within him; he had everything essential to greatness, the ingredients of which artists, poets, and prophets are made: charisma, energy, and talent. He was closely attuned to the natural world, and because of his tremendous vitality and enthusiasm for life, which found creative outlet in his art, he has become more than a myth. As long as our civilization lasts, America will be in debt to Audubon for what he symbolizes.”

birds1Audubon’s Birds of America (The Audubon Society’s Baby Elephant Folio) with Ornithological Biography, or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America (7 volumes)

Peterson, Roger Tory and Virginia Marie; Audubon, John James; Fries, Waldemar H

New York: Abbeville Press, 1981;1985.

Leather bound. Audubon’s Birds of America (The Audubon Society’s Baby Elephant Folio). New York: Abbeville Press, 1981. 15 1/2″ X 12″. 435 Full Color Plates. Signed by Roger Tory and Virginia Marie Peterson on half-title page reading: “This Collector’s Edition of The Audubon Society Baby Elephant Folio Audubon’s Birds of America Is Handbound in Leather and Signed by the Authors.” Handsome green leather pictorial hardcover binding, with gilt decorations and lettering to cover and 5-banded spine. Very light edgewear with light rubbing to back cover. Attractive marbled endpapers and silk ribbon place marker. Binding is tight and sound. Contents are clean, bright, and unmarked.

Ornithological Biography, or an Account of the Habits of the Birds of the United States of America (7 volumes). New York: Abbeville Press , 1985. 10 3/4″ X 7 1/8″. Set of seven volumes, including: Volumes I-V of Audubon’s Ornithological Biography, Fries’ The Double Elephant Folio: The Story of Audubon’s Birds of America, and the Petersons’ Commentaries On Audubon’s Birds of America. Mild shelfwear and some rubbing to all green leather hardcover bindings, with intricate gilt decorations and lettering to covers and spines. Stunning marbled endpapers. Bindings are tight and sound. Contents are clean, bright, and unmarked.

Near fine. Item #806

Price: $1,000.00

For more information on John James Audubon and his legacy, we suggest the Audubon Society website.

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: A Rare Vonnegut Gem

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point,‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

vonnegut— Kurt Vonnegut, our patron saint

“If this isn’t nice, what is?” has become a motto around our shop and home over the past year, and when   we look (read: gaze adoringly) at this scarce advance review copy of Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, we can’t help but murmur it ourselves.

Drawing inspiration from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, and his own Post-WWII experiences working for General Electric, Vonnegut prognosticates a future of know-how and no labor. Player Piano is Vonnegut’s dystopian vision of automation, in which machines have replaced   human effort, eradicating for many “the feeling of being needed and useful, the foundation of self-respect.” Charles Scribner’s Sons produced only 25 to 30 advance review copies, making this a treasure among our   acquisitions of 2014.


Backed by a beloved author of ours, we urge you to make declaring   your happiness a new year’s resolution for 2015.

We end with just one more point of advice from Vonnegut, from the closing remarks of his 1999 commencement address at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia:

“Don’t give up on books. They feel so good — their friendly heft. The sweet reluctance of their pages when you turn them with your sensitive fingertips. A large part of our brains is devoted to deciding whether what our hands are touching is good or bad for us. Any brain worth a nickel knows books are good for us.”

Player Piano

Vonnegut, Kurt

New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.

First Edition. Paperback. 295pp. Softcover. 8vo. Pale green stiff paper cover wraps, soiled and mottled. Corners bumped, with some losses at head and tail of spine, light splitting of front hinge. Text from two jacket flaps pasted in to front endpapers, with previous owner’s name and penciled prices/notations present (text otherwise clean). One of only 25 to 30 advance review copies were produced of Player Piano, his first book. A good copy of a rare Vonnegut gem. Good. Item #624

Price: $1,100.00

Click here to see this listing on UndergroundBooks.net

For more information on Kurt Vonnegut, his life, and his writings, we suggest the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, which we had the pleasure of visiting on our honeymoon in May of 2014, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can find them online at VonnegutLibrary.org.


from our guestbook at the shop