1994 ROOI Revzews 149
Each historic ranch is discussed by Lawrence Clayton in about four pages of
text-hardly enough for adequate treatment. The author in his introduction in-
forms us that this is not "an effort in revisionist history" (as if we couldn't guess
by the format). Indeed, he proclaims with obvious pride that "those readers
searching for a revisionist text to debunk the admittedly often romanticized view
of ranching will need to look elsewhere." What we have, then, is a "middle-of-
the-road" book of fewer than one hundred pages, designed to adorn coffee ta-
bles throughout urbanized but nostalgic Texas.
No doubt there is a market for this kind of lightweight material, as evidenced
by the increasing number of such publications from university presses, meaning
that we probably have not seen the last of this series, nor of others like it. That is
fine, I suppose, as long as scholarly presses do not abandon their primary mis-
sion of expanding the frontiers of knowledge in exchange for the more expedi-
ent dictates of maximum sales and profitability. Should that happen, coffee
tables everywhere will groan and collapse under the accumulated weight of these
volumes. Then we will have no place to exhibit them except out in the middle of
the road-preferably one not colored burnt sienna.
Audubon's Great National Work: The Royal Octavo Edztion of "The Birds of America."
By Ron Tyler. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993. Pp. xvii+213. Ac-
knowledgments, tables, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-
For decades John James Audubon has captured the imagination, evoking im-
ages of a long-haired romantic in buckskin jacket roaming the countryside in
search of birds to draw. Few American artists have received more attention in
print, with no fewer than a dozen biographies and other publications focusing
on his birds and animals. Many of these contain inaccuracies spawned by
Audubon himself, through his braggadocio and his attempts to conceal his ille-
Even before the completion of Audubon's engraved double elephant folio of
The Bzrds of America, published serially in Great Britain between 1826 and 1838,
he contemplated a "petit edition" for greater distribution and sales. The royal
octavo edition of five hundred hand-colored lithographs was published between
1839 and 1844 in seven considerably smaller, more affordable volumes. Its nine
nineteenth-century editions, produced simultaneously with The Vizvparous
Quadrupeds of North America, provided financial support for Audubon's family
many years after his death.
In this book, Ron Tyler, director of the Texas State Historical Association,
stresses the importance of the royal octavo edition as the most important, beauti-
ful, and popular natural history book published in nineteenth-century America.
He brings to light heretofore unpublished manuscripts, financial records, and
letters, some correcting previous misinformation.
TJ_ L r) __..2 .....
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed May 31, 2016.