Natural History Prints

From medieval herbal woodcuts to the works of John James Audubon, Skinner offers a breadth and depth of natural history prints at auction.



Natural history prints depict the world of flora and fauna in exquisite, scientific detail. John James Audubon set the standard for fine prints of birds and mammals. An artist and naturalist, Audubon set out at a young age to depict every bird in America at life size in its natural environment. In doing so, he created a genre of illustration that didn’t exist before. He moved on to document wild animals ranging from field mice to foxes. The Economist estimates that a list of the ten most expensive books ever sold would include five copies of Audubon’s seminal work, The Birds of America. The double elephant folio size contains 435 hand-colored prints, and is over three feet tall, two feet wide, and weighs over 200 pounds.

Skinner has had the privilege to handle several copies of the complete work in the smaller, octavo size, as well as numerous single prints, including a hawk carrying a fish that sold for $160,000. Because of the ease of display and relatively more affordable price point, individual Audubon prints will always be popular with collectors; condition and subject matter are of utmost importance when considering the purchase or sale of Audubon natural history prints.

Carl Linnaeus laid the groundwork for our current system of scientific names with the publication of Systema Naturae in 1735. Works of natural history that predate the introduction of Linnaean taxonomy are distinct and noteworthy for their use of common names.

Such earlier volumes on natural history include herbals, or books that document plants with medicinal uses with woodcut prints. These can be found from the medieval period through 16th century German texts and 17th century English books including John Gerard’s Herbal. These books are typically considered most valuable when offered as complete volumes, though early individual botanical prints in good condition may be desirable as well.

Rare natural history prints and books offered at Skinner auctions reach an international audience of museums, collectors, and dealers. Expert print appraisers are available to evaluate your single prints or folios. Contact Skinner to learn more about consigning Audubon prints or natural history books to auction.


Subscribe to our email list for updates

Updates: auction-related updates RSS Subscribe