Posted by on Mar 6, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments



Barn Owl. Elephant folio aquatint engraving from John James Audubon, The Birds of America, London, 1827-1828.

Note: The exhibit closed May 19, 2017, but the items remain in the permanent collection of the California State Library and may be viewed on request. Contact the California State Library Special Collections for more information: 916-654-0176. 

The Golden Age of Book Illustration from John James Audubon to Thomas Moranwill be on display in the California State University, Sacramento, University Library Gallery until May 19, 2017. This exhibition of over three dozen antique color prints celebrates that great era when authors, scientists, artists, and publishers collaborated to produce some of the most elegant and sumptuously illustrated books ever produced.

bridal illuminated

The Bridal Souvenir, Illuminated by Samuel Stanesby, London

     The highlight of the exhibition is a selection of original hand-colored prints from John James Audubon’s monumental The Birds of America (1827–38). It certainly ranks as the most famous and prized of all color plate books, and nothing in the annals of book illustration equals the

majesty of its 435 hand-colored  elephant folio plates. While Audubon’s great ornithological work is the highlight, this special exhibition, drawn from the collections of the California State Library’s general Rare Book Collection and the Sutro Library, includes a variety of spectacular examples ranging from lifelike engravings, lithographs, and chromolithographs of flowers, snakes, bears, and exotic scenery to elaborate reproductions of medieval manuscripts printed in gold, silver, and bronze. Works by Audubon’s contemporaries George Catlin and Thomas Moran are also on display.


Plate from Edward King, Lord Kingsborough. Antiquities of Mexico: Comprising Fac-Similies of Ancient Mexican Paintings and Hieroglyphics. London, 1830.

Many of the titles gracing the walls of the CSU Library Gallery have rarely been seen in the Sacramento area, or assembled together in one venue. The exhibit’s curator, Gary Kurutz, marvels at the foresight of the State Library’s collections staff in acquiring these items :

      “It is remarkable that the California State Library, beginning in the 1850s, would purchase such extraordinary hallmarks of book illustration for the people of the Golden State. In 1866, for example, the Library received permission to purchase the Audubon double-elephant folio. With this exhibition, we hope these volumes will not only delight the eye, but also instill a sense of appreciation for the extraordinary talent, ingenuity, dauntlessness, and dedication of these 18th and 19th century artists and publishers.”

audubon meadow lark

Detail of Audubon’s “Meadow Lark.”

     Mr. Kurutz would like to thank Daniel Flanagan of the Library’s Preservation Office for his expert assistance. Mead B. Kibbey, Foundation board member and the Library’s greatest supporter, purchased the necessary frames for the display. Phil Hitchcock, Director of the University Library Gallery, is to be especially commended for hosting this exhibition of rare and priceless volumes.

The University Library Gallery, is located on the CSU Sacramento campus at 6000 J. Street, Sacramento. Gallery hours are 10 AM – 5 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, or by arrangement. 916-278-4189. 


Chromolithograph plate of illuminated manuscript from Henry Shaw, The Art of Illumination, 1870.

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