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Edward S. Curtis
The North American Indian, Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska.
Swann Galleries - New York
Courtesy of Swann Galleries (Auction, Oct 15, 2007, #2124, Lot 53)
CURTIS, EDWARD S. The North American Indian, Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska. Portfolios 1-16 and text volumes 1-16 on Holland Van Gelder paper. The large-format sepia photogravures by John Andrew & Sons, each measuring 15 1/2x11 inches and the reverse (39.3x28 cm. and the reverse), with a printed title, plate number, copyright, and photographer's and publisher's credit on recto. Folio, 1/4 gilt-impressed morocco; gilt-lettered bookplates. The small-format sepia photogravures by John Andrews & Son, with the accompanying vellum interleafing. Large 4tos, 3/4 gilt-lettered morocco; top edge gilt; gilt-lettered morocco bookplates. set number 74 of an edition of 500 copies; volume one signed by theodore roosevelt and edward s. curtis. Cambridge & Norwood, MA: The University Press, 1907-09 & The Plimpton Press, 1911-26
From the collection of E. Ward Olney; presented to the Sheldon Library, Concord, NH, between 1926 and 1929.
Vol. 1: Apache, Jicarillas, Navaho; Vol. 2: Pima, Papago, Qahatika, Mohave, Yuma, Maricopa, Walapi, Havasupai, Apache-Mohave; Vol. 3: Teton Sioux, Yanktonai, Assiniboin; Vol. 4: Apsaroke, Hidatsa; Vol. 5: Mandan, Arikara, Atsina; Vol. 6: Piegan, Cheyenne, Arapaho; Vol. 7: Yakima, Klickitat, Interior Salish, Kutenai; Vol. 8: Nez PercÚs, Walla Walla, Umatilla, Cayuse, Chinookan Tribes; Vol. 9: Salishan Tribes of the Coast, Chimakum, Quilliute, Willapa; Vol. 10: The Kwakiutl; Vol. 11: Nootka, Haida; Vol. 12: The Hopi; Vol. 13: Hupa, Yurok, Karok, Wiyot, Tolowa, Tututni, Shasta, Achomawi, Klamath; Vol. 14: Kato, Wailaki, Yuki, Pomo, Wintun, Maidu, Miwok, Yokuts; Vol: 15: Southern California Shoshoneans, The Dieguenos, Plateau Shoshoneans, The Washo Mythology; Vol. 16: The Tiwa, The Keres.
Curtis anticipated 500 sets of "The North American Indian" would be published, but he failed to find the requisite number of subscribers. Originally priced at $3,000 ($150 per volume with the supplemental portfolio), it is believed that the number of full sets actually published is between 272 to 292, with 272 representing the number of paid subscribers. The remaining sets were possibly presentation sets issued to prospective patrons or supporters.
Sets of Curtis's tour-de-force are rare. The photogravures were printed by two different engravers: John Andrews & Son printed the ones for folio volumes 1-11, and Suffolk Engraving produced the plates for volumes 12-20. Most of the extant sets are in institutional collections in the United States and Europe. Several of those remaining sets were broken in the 1960s-80s when Curtis's approach -- in particular, his casual recycling of one tribe's props and ceremonial costumes for another's -- was not only viewed as an inappropriate strategy for a documentary photographer but also politically incorrect. Since then Curtis's work has been the focus of revisionist scholarship. It is prized among connoisseurs of photographic literature, antiquarian book and Americana collectors, as well as by Native-American peoples, who have come to embrace it as a treasure trove of pictorial information documenting their personal and collective history.