London, Dec 8 (ANI): A stunning book by a wildlife artist who influenced Charles Darwin became the world's most expensive book when it went under the hammer at an auction on Tuesday night.
A rare copy of 'Birds of America' by John James Audubon was sold for a record-breaking price of 7.3 million pounds at Sotheby's, reports the Daily Mail.
London dealer Michael Tollemache bought the 19th century masterpiece for 7,321,250 pounds, making it the most expensive printed book in the world.
Tollemache, who was bidding in the Sotheby's auction room, described the 1827 work as 'priceless'.
Audubon painted life-sized illustrations of almost 500 breeds in the 40-inch-high book, which merited several mentions in Darwin's 'The Origin Of Species'.
Only 119 copies exist, of which fewer than a dozen are in private hands.
Born in Haiti in 1785, Audubon had been fascinated by birds since childhood and was determined to illustrate America's breeds more realistically than ever before.
Using a technique that would shock modern wildlife artists, he hunted them down and shot them before propping them up on wires to paint. Each drawing would take about 60 hours to complete.
The book was sold as part of the collection of the late Lord Hesketh. t included a Shakespeare First Folio from 1623, said to be the most important book in English literature, which made 1.5million pounds.
David Goldthorpe of Sotheby's said the two were the 'twin peaks' of the book world.
"To have these items in one sale is remarkable," he added.
Experts say the book is unmatched in its beauty and also of considerable scientific value, justifying its stratospheric cost.
Pom Harrington, owner of the Peter Harrington rare book firm in London, said that it has been 10 years since the last complete edition of 'Birds of America', with all of the illustrations, has been auctioned and was sold for 5.6million pounds by Christie's auction house in 2000, a record for a printed book at auction.
The quality of the edition offered by Sotheby's was extremely high, he said, adding it was unusual to find one not in a museum or academic institution.
The volume is seen as a vital piece of American history, said Harrington.
The 'Birds of America' plates were printed in black and white and hand-coloured afterwards, and made from engravings of Audubon's watercolours.
The collection of 435 hand-coloured prints measures more than 3ft by 2ft because Audubon wanted to paint the birds life size.
The size of the illustrations makes them extremely valuable as standalone pieces of art, which makes the complete edition vulnerable to being broken up so the individual prints can be sold one by one.
Harrington said the wild turkey that is depicted in the first big plate of the book could be sold for 126,000 pounds.
But Mark Ghahramani, a rare book specialist at Classic Bindings in London, said it is unlikely that 'Birds Of America' will be divided up for resale because it is probably more valuable if left intact. (ANI)