Today we visited Teylers Museum in Haarlem to see one of the rarest and most expensive books in the world: “The Birds of America” by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851). The exhibit “Vogels van Formaat” (that runs from 3 November 2007 to 20 January 2008) has on display an original copy of the huge book. It consists of five volumes depicting all birds of North America (as known at the time) in actual size on beautiful dramatic paintings by Audubon.
Approximately 200 sets were thought to have been created in the early 1800’s, but only about 130 are still known to exist. One of these was sold by Christie’s in New York in 2002 for 8.8 million dollars! Teyler Museum bought the first edition book when it came out for 2243 guilders and has owned it since. Throughout the time the book is on display, the museum opens a different page in each book every day.
One wall of the room with the books was covered in original sized reprints of plates from the book:
One wall had six screens running documentaries and videos of birds:
The museum has an excellent (free!) audio guide, which you can download and put on your MP3 player, either from home (at artcast.nl) or from a computer at the museum gift shop. The audio guide is in both Dutch and English and features lots of very interesting information about the artifacts in the museum’s fossils, art and historic scientific instruments.