John James Audubon's Birds of America—a rare blend of art, natural history, and craftsmanship—fetched more than $10 million at auction today, making it the world's most expensive published book. With its 435 hand-colored illustrations of birds drawn to size, the volume is one of the best preserved editions of Audubon's 19th-century masterpiece. The sale at Sotheby's auction house in London had been anticipated for months by wealthy collectors.
The book sold for $10,270,000 to an anonymous collector bidding by telephone, the auction house said. Part naturalist and part artist, Audubon possessed an unequaled ability to observe, catalog, and paint the birds he observed in the wild. The book is "one of the most visually stunning books in the history of print," says a specialist in New York.