The royal copy of 'Birds of America'

The Royal Library volumes were bound by J. Mackenzie of London, c.1840, after publication of the final numbers. These bindings have preserved the freshness of the watercolours ever since, but have also limited the use and enjoyment of this astonishing work.

Size comparison

The original bindings suffered from all the obvious problems of use, primarily owing to their great size and weight - volume IV weighed 27.35 kilograms. In addition, and most importantly, the tight sewing method of joining the single plates together restricted the books’ opening and made the paper prone to tear. Furthermore, the degraded condition of the leather was a matter of serious concern.

The decision was made in January 2011 to rebind Audubon’s Birds of America in the Paper and Book Conservation studios at Windsor Castle.

Tears showing bottom edge volume I

Obvious damage at front

Pages