Prints: Audubon's Folio Birds
Bien Edition (1858-1860)
The Bien Edition takes its name from printer Julius Bien of New York, a German immigrant who was among the pioneers in developing chromolithography (an early form of color printing) in the United States. The project was conceived by John Woodhouse Audubon, the younger of the two Audubon sons, and was intended to help restore the family's ailing finances. John intended a full reissue of the 435 images of the Double Elephant Folio to include 44 parts, the typical part consisting of seven sheets of paper with ten bird images. In each part, there would be two sheets with a single large image, two sheets with a single medium-sized image, and three sheets, each of which included two small images.
Although each plate is printed in color with as many as six lithographic stones, many Bien Edition plates are enhanced with hand-coloring. Some vary somewhat from their Havell Edition counterparts in terms of the coloring, but also in some cases in terms of the image backgrounds. Bien Edition plates are beautiful and historically important prints in their own right, representing a landmark work in the development of American color printing. Although not as well known to the public as the Havell Edition, Biens have their champions among both collectors and dealers. These fine original prints serve as lower-priced alternatives to the more expensive Havells, and hold a unique place in the story of Audubon's work, a place that no modern reproduction can duplicate.
In order to make the new prints, Bien transferred the images from the original copper plates to lithographic stones using a wetted sheet of transfer paper. This technique allowed Bien to capture both the fine lines and aquatint shading of the engravings. Unfortunately, poor economic conditions brought on by the Civil War would force John to discontinue the project in 1860 after 15 parts (150 images on 105 sheets of paper) had been issued. John's death in 1862 ensured the project was never revived. Sadly, the financial losses incurred by the Audubon family as a result of the Bien Edition led to bankruptcy and the dispersal of the extended Audubon family.
All prints are full sheets measuring about 39 x 26 inches unless otherwise stated. Please ask for a condition report. CLICK ON THE THUMBNAILS BELOW FOR A FULL SIZE IMAGE. Photographs are highly dependent on light conditions and are not always accurate representations of the prints. I am happy to provide detailed descriptions and provide photos under varying light conditions to give you a better sense of colors and sheet tone.