(Bloomberg News) A complete first edition of John James Audubon's "The Birds of America" fetched $7.9 million at Christie's today, just above the low presale estimate and far shy of a record.
A single telephone bid took the prize. The highest auction price paid for one of the first editions was $11.5 million in a 2010 sale at Sotheby's.
The giant four-volume set (1827-1838) stands more than 3 feet tall and features 435 hand-colored engravings. It was estimated to bring $7 million to $10 million.
The set originally belonged to William Henry Cavendish, the fourth Duke of Portland, a British politician who bought it after 1838, according to Christie's catalog.
Of approximately 200 copies that were printed, 107 are in institutions and 13 are in private hands. The whereabouts of the rest are unknown.