- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - The New-York Historical Society is exhibiting its entire collection of 474 bird watercolors by John James Audubon for the first time.

They’re being shown chronologically in three exhibitions over three years. The first group went on view Friday.

The collection includes 435 watercolors engraved for Audubon’s monumental “The Birds of America.” The intricately detailed, life-size renderings are the naturalist’s greatest work.

An original edition of Audubon’s book, known as the double elephant folio, is also being shown. Its plates will be turned weekly.

The 3 1/2-foot-tall volume features all the avian species known to Audubon in early 19th-century North America. He sold the engraved plates in a subscription series.

The museum purchased all the watercolors, except one, from the artist’s widow in 1863.

The first exhibition ends May 19.

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