The Audubon Leipzig Edition

The Audubon Leipzig Edition is a limited edition facsimile reproduction of some of John J. Audubon's original Birds of America prints. It is among a number of high quality double elephant folio (DEF) sized reproduction editions published since 1970. The Leipzig Edition consists of only 40 different prints (not all 435 of Audubon's originals), and in that respect is comparable to the M. Bernard Loates and Princeton-Audubon Editions. Two other modern editions, the Amsterdam and Abbeville, reproduced all 435 of Audubon's original Birds of America prints.

Production on the Leipzig Edition began in 1972 in Leipzig, Germany. Originally, 1000 copies of each of the 40 different chosen prints were to be produced. Of the 1000 copies, 500 sets were to be bound into volumes, and the remaining 500 copies of each print were to be sold loose.  It is not certain whether the original printing or publication was completed in Germany. Beyond that, there is much confusion and unknown information about this edition. In contacting American and European dealers, there is much conflicting information. 

No one knows how many initial copies were produced. Originally, an unknown number of completed bound volumes were produced, along with an unknown number of loose sets. After production ceased in the 1970s, I have heard that an unknown number of loose prints were produced in either Holland or another German city sometime during the 1980s or 1990s. Then, as recently as 2004, Leipzig Edition prints were being produced in London and appear with either Ariel or Ariel Press stamped on them.

Originally, the 40 prints were bound into two very large volumes. Each print measured about 27" x 37-1/2" or true DEF size. All text pages in the book volumes were printed in German, but the prints are true facsimiles of the original Audubon Havell Edition. One volume consisted of 20 horizontal images, and the second bound volume was made up of 20 vertical images. Original bound volumes occasionally turn up for sale in the U.S., but are regularly listed for sale by European booksellers. Single bound volumes generally range in price from $750-1000 USD. Two volume sets are priced from $1250-2500 USD. Loose prints are sometimes found at Audubon and other art/print dealers. They have also been auctioned on eBay.

Plates for Volume I are as follows -

Plate 8 (VIII) White-throated Sparrow
Plate 12 (XII) Baltimore Oriole
Plate 20 (XX)  Blue-winged Yellow Warbler
Plate 26 (XXVI) Carolina Parrot
Plate 33 (XXXIII)  American Goldfinch
Plate 53 (LIII) Painted Bunting
Plate 56 (LVI) Red-shouldered Hawk
Plate 62 (LXII) Passenger Pigeon
Plate 75 (LXXV) Le petit Caporal
Plate 87 (LXXXVII) Florida Jay
Plate 111 (CXI) Pileated Woodpecker
Plate 121 (CXXI) Snowy Owl
Plate 127 (CXXVII) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Plate 142 (CXLII) American Sparrow Hawk
Plate 177 (CLXXVII) White-crowned Pigeon
Plate 206 (CCVI)  Summer Wood Duck
Plate 354 (CCCLIV) Scarlet Tanager, Western Tanager
Plate 364 (CCCLXIV) White-winged Crossbill
Plate 367 (CCCLXVII) Band-tailed Pigeon
Plate 416 (CCCCXVI) Ten Woodpeckers 

Plates for Volume II are as follows - 

Plate 32 (XXXII) Black-billed Cuckoo
Plate 72 (LXXII) American Swallow-tailed Hawk
Plate 191 (CXCI) Willow Grouse or Large Ptarmigan
Plate 217 (CCXVII) Louisiana Heron
Plate 249 (CCXLIX) Tufted Auk
Plate 255 (CCLV) Red Phalarope
Plate 256 (CCLVI) Purple Heron
Plate 262 (CCLXII)  Tropic Bird
Plate 276 (CCLXXVI) King Duck
Plate 297 (CCXCVII) Harlequin Duck
Plate 307 (CCCVII) Blue Crane or Heron
Plate 321 (CCCXXI) Roseate Spoonbill
Plate 327 (CCCXXVII) Shoveler Duck
Plate 361 (CCCLXI) Long- tailed or Dusky Grous
Plate 371 (CCCLXXI)  Cock of the Plains
Plate 386 (CCCLXXXVI) White Heron
Plate 387 (CCCLXXXVII) Glossy Ibis
Plate 392 (CCCXCII) Louisiana Hawk
Plate 397 (CCCXCVII) Scarlet Ibis
Plate 429 (CCCCXXIX) Western Duck

The Leipzig Edition is printed on heavy cardstock like paper, without a gloss. The prints are collotypes. A collotype is an outdated printing technique that was commercially developed around 1868, and all but abandoned after World War II. Collotype was the most accurate and beautiful photomechanical printing method of its time. It process begins by drying a layer of light sensitive chrome gelatin on a glass plate (similar to the emulsions used on photographic glass plates). This gelatin coated glass plate becomes the printing plate. Like chromolithography, collotype is a multi-plate printing process. 

The dry collotype plate is placed in contact with a reverse negative image, and exposed to light. The areas of the gelatin layer, that are exposed to light, dry and are able to hold ink for printing. The areas of the gelatin layer, that are not exposed to light, do not dry and are capable of absorbing water and repelling ink. This is similar to the techniques used in printing a stone lithograph. The printer will prepare a reverse negative image and a gelatin coated glass plate for each collotype base color in the final print. The successful reproduction of the original image rests with a colorist's analysis of the base colors and the subsequent layering of different colored plates during the printing process. Generally, between 500-2000 impressions can be made from each collotype glass plate. Under magnification, a modern offset lithograph is made up of millions of tiny colored dots. However, a collotype appears as small areas or blobs of colors.

A Price Guide is now available for the Leipzig Edition, in The Audubon Price Guide Book, at http;//

Copyright 2008 by Ron Flynn  


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