Rare Audubon 'Birds of America' sells for $9.6 million in New York

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(Reuters) - A first edition of John James Audubon’s “The Birds of America,” one of the most celebrated books of natural history, sold for $9.65 million at auction in New York on Thursday, Christie’s said.

The richly illustrated 19th century book, featuring more than 400 hand-colored illustrations of 1,037 life-size birds, was one of just 13 complete sets thought to be remaining in private hands.

Christie’s described the set as “among the most superlative copies in private hands of the finest color-plate book ever produced.”

It said the price, paid by a buyer who wished to remain anonymous, was the second highest sum paid for the book at auction. Another of the complete sets went for $10.27 million in 2010.

Audubon’s “The Birds of America” was first published as a series in sections between 1827 and 1838 and represented his years-long mission to find and paint all the known species of birds in North America.

The book that was sold on Thursday was owned by U.S. businessman and naturist Carl W. Knobloch Jr., who died in 2016. Proceeds from the sale will benefit conservation of plants, animals and natural habitats through the work of the Knobloch Family Foundation.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant