SCHOOLCRAFT, Henry Rowe (1793-1864)
Information, Respecting the History, Conditions and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Collected and Prepared under the Direction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Philadelphia: Lippincott, Gambo & Co. [vols. 1-4] or J.B. Lippincott & Co. [vols. 5 and 6], 1853-1852-1853-1854-1855-1857. 6 volumes, quarto. (12 5/16 x 9 1/2 inches). Half-titles. 5 steel-engraved additional titles (additional title to vol.VI not issued), 1 steel-engraved portrait of Schoolcraft to front vol.VI, 1 folding letterpress table, 329 engraved or lithographed plates, plans and maps (i.e 331 plates on 329 sheets) after Seth Eastman and others (some colored).
Full red morocco spine and front boards elaborately tooled in gilt with gilt inner dentelles. Patterend endpapers. All edges gilt
Henry Schoolcraft's masterpiece in a deluxe presentation binding. This work is the most extensive work on Native Americans published in the 19th-century containing "a vast mass of really valuable information" (Field), and a cornerstone of any collection of ethnological studies on America.
Born near Albany, N.Y., Schoolcraft took part in a number of important early surveying expeditions before being appointed commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1822. With his headquarters at Sault Sainte Marie, he married the half-Ojibwa daughter of a local fur-trader, learnt the Ojibwa language and began his ethnographical researches in earnest. He retained his position for almost twenty years and made full use of the unequalled opportunites it provided him. A change in government in 1841 resulted in him losing his position and moving back to the East, but he continued his Native American studies and the first volume of the present work was published in 1851. The work was completed with the publication of the sixth volume in 1857. Field notes that the work as a whole "contains a vast mass of really valuable material. It has indeed performed a very important service for Indigenous peoples history, in collecting and preserving an immense amount of historic data. Vocabularies of Indigenous languages, grammatical analyses, legends of various tribes, biographies of chiefs and warriors, narratives of captivities, histories of Indian wars, emigrations, and theories of their origin, are all related and blended in an extraordinary.... manner". The other aspect of the work that gives it immense additional value is the large body of art work by Seth Eastman (1808-1875). Eastman, a serving officer in the U.S. Army, had trained as a topographical artist: a discipline which necessitated a rigourous almost photographic approach to the subject and is ideally suited to the task of recording landscape, objects and individuals as accurately as possible. His work as a whole has ensured that he is now viewed as the foremost pictorial historian of Native American history and culture. The vast majority of the plates in the present work are either from his original drawings or from copies by him of others work. "A very large number of beautiful steel engravings, representative of some phase of Indigenous life and customs, are contained in the work, but the most valuable of its illustrations are the drawings of weapons, domestic utensils, instruments of gaming and amusement, sorcery and medicine, objects of worship, their sculpture, paintings, and fortifications, pictograph writing, dwellings, and every form of antiquities" (Field). There is some confusion over the correct collation of the work, as the plate lists in each volume do not always conform with what was actually published. The work should contain plates (not including the additional titles) as follows: vol. 1, 76 plates; vol. 2, 79 plates (plate number 30 skipped in the numbering), vol. 3, 42 plates (plates 22-24 not issued in this volume), vol. 4, 42 plates, vol. 5, 35 plates on 33 sheets (plate 9 not published, plates 17 and 36 on one sheet, plates 32 and 33 on one sheet), vol. 6, frontispiece portrait and 57 plates. The numbering of the plates in the final volume are haphazard, as most of these plates were re-used from earlier volumes without changes to the numbering.
Bennett, p.95; Field, p.353; Howes S183, "b"; Sabin 77855; Servies 3691; Dippie, Catlin and His Contemporaries: The Politics of Patronage (University of Nebraska, 1990), chapters 4 and 5; Francis R. Stoddard, "Amiel Weeks Whipple" in Chronicles of Oklahoma, vol. 28 (Autumn 1950).