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: Chatto & Windus, circa 1875]. Large folio. (23 3/8 x 17 inches). 31 tinted lithographs after Catlin and McGahey. Without title or list of plates, found in few copies.
Contemporary dark blue morocco backed marbled paper covered boards, morocco lettering piece on the upper cover, spine lettered in gilt (expert repairs to joints)
The Indian Portfolio in the rare 31-plate tinted issue.
This issue of Catlin's famous work on American Indians includes the rare six unnumbered lithographs, comprising two portraits, a group portrait of Ojibways, two tribal dance scenes, and a hunting scene. These six plates were evidently executed on lithographic stones in 1844 when Catlin envisioned a whole series of "Indian "Portfolios," but were not printed and issued until Chatto & Windus acquired Henry Bohn's stock of, and copyright for, Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio in 1871. This copy does not have any title or text leaves, as usual for this issue.
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, 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 western tribes, finishing 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. Catlin then exhibited his Indian Gallery in London beginning in 1841.
Encouraged by his warm reception, he planned a series of four portfolios, with a total of 100 plates, to illustrate Indian life. By the time the first Indian Portfolio appeared in late 1844, Catlin had desperately overstrained his budget, and was forced to sell the entire project, lithographic stones and all, to the preeminent English publisher of color plate books, Henry Bohn.
Research by William Reese has demonstrated that Henry Bohn issued the Indian Portfolio in several variant versions while he controlled the copyright, from 1845 until his retirement in the late 1860s. In 1871 he sold the copyright and working materials for a number of his books to the firm of Chatto & Windus. According to the surviving Chatto & Windus records, they acquired the original lithographic stones made in 1844, including an additional six, never printed, which must have been prepared for Catlin's next projected Indian Portfolio. Thus, the extra six plates only appear here. The thirty-one-plate issue is far rarer than any of the twenty-five-plate issues, by a ratio of about four to one. Reese located fifteen other copies of this issue (out of 165 copies in his census on copies of the Indian Portfolio).
The plates are as follow:
1) "North American Indians."
2) "Buffalo Bull Grazing."
3) "Wild Horses, at Play."
4) "Catching the Wild Horse."
5) "Buffalo Hunt, Chase."
6) "Buffalo Hunt, Chase."
7) "Buffalo Hunt, Chase."
8) "Buffalo Dance."
9) "Buffalo Hunt, Surround."
10) "Buffalo Hunt, White Wolves attacking a Buffalo Bull."
11) "Buffalo Hunt, Approaching a Ravine."
12) "Buffalo Hunt, Chasing Back."
13) "Buffalo Hunt, Under the White Wolf Skin."
14) "Snow Shoe Dance."
15) "Buffalo Hunt, on Snow Shoes."
16) "Wounded Buffalo Bull."
17) "Dying Buffalo Bull, in Snow Drift."
18) "The Bear Dance."
19) "Attacking the Grizzly Bear."
20) "Antelope Shooting."
21) "Ball Players."
22) "Ball-Play Dance."
23) "Ball Play."
24) "Archery of the Mandans."
25) "Wi-Jun-Jon an Assiniboine Chief."
[unnumbered] "Joc-O-Sot, the Walking Bear."
[unnumbered] "Mah-To-Toh-Pah, The Mandan Chief."
[unnumbered] "Buffaloe Hunting."
[unnumbered] "The War Dance."
[unnumbered] "The Scalp Dance."
Wagner-Camp 105a; Howes C243; Field 258; Abbey Travel 653 (ref); McCracken 10; William S. Reese, "The Production of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, 1844-1876," issue 11.