CATLIN, George (1796-1872)
Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. From Drawings and Notes of the Author, made during Eight Years' Travel amongst Forty-Eight of the Wildest and most Remote Tribes of Savages in North America
London: "Geo. Catlin. Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly" [i.e. Chatto & Windus], [circa 1875]. Folio. (21 3/4 x 17 3/4 inches). Letterpress title and plate list, 31 hand-coloured lithographic plates, all mounted on card within ink-ruled frames.
Unbound as issued within publisher's brown cloth covered portfolio, original red morocco label on the upper cover, expertly rebacked to style, glazed yellow endpapers. Housed in a red morocco backed box.
The very rare deluxe issue of the thirty-one plate edition of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, hand-coloured and mounted on card.
This edition of Catlin's famous work on American Indians includes six additional lithographs, comprising two portraits, a group portrait of Ojibways, two tribal dance scenes, and a hunting scene. These six plates were evidently executed in the 1840s when Catlin envisioned a series of Indian "Portfolios," but they were not printed and issued until the present edition, making this the first complete edition of Catlin's portfolio.
Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio contains the results of his years of painting, living with and travelling amongst the Great Plains Indians. In a famous passage from the preface, Catlin describes how the sight of several Indian chiefs in Philadelphia led to his resolution to record their vanishing way of life: "the history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life shall prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian." From 1832 to 1837 he spent the summer months sketching the tribes and then finished his pictures in oils during the winter. He painted around 600 highly realistic and powerfully projected portraits of Indians, carefully recording their costume, culture and way of life. In addition to publishing the present work, Catlin also spent from 1837 to 1852 touring the United States, England, France and Holland with his collection of paintings, examples of Indian crafts and accompanied by representative members of the Indian tribes. A financial reversal in 1852 meant that he lost the collection, but he spent his later years making several trips to South and Central America, sketching the natives there.
Research by William Reese has demonstrated that the 31 plate issue of the Portfolio was not produced until the firm of Chatto & Windus purchased the copyright to the book from the famed bookseller Henry Bohn. According to the Chatto & Windus records, which survive, these were printed from the original lithographic stones, in 1871 and published circa 1875 with a list of plates (present here but often found lacking). The 31-plate issue is far rarer than any of the 25 plate issues, and only in this format can the extra six plates be found.
Like the first edition of the Portfolio, the 31 plate edition was published in three formats: tinted on paper, hand-coloured on paper and a deluxe issue, hand-coloured and trimmed and mounted on card in the style of original watercolours. This final issue is the most rare and desirable. Of the 28 copies of the 31 plate issue located by Reese in his census, only two were of the deluxe issue, as here.
Howes C243; McCracken 10; Wagner-Camp 105a; cf. Abbey Travel 653 (ref); cf. Sabin pp. 436 (25 plates only), William S. Reese, The Production of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, 1844-1876.