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Item #41112 The Aboriginal Port-Folio. James Otto LEWIS.
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio
The Aboriginal Port-Folio

The Aboriginal Port-Folio

Philadelphia: James Otto Lewis, printed by Lehman and Duval, May 1835 - January 1836. Folio. (17 3/4 x 11 inches). First edition. Publisher's blue paper wrapper for No. 5, letterpress prospectus advertisements for parts 1, 2, and 3, 72 lithograph plates after Lewis hand-colored by Lehman and Duval, and a rare publisher's blue paper wrapper testimonial leaf [From the Numerous Notices of the Aboriginal Port-Folio Which Have Appeared in the Papers].

Modern red half morocco over 19th-century cloth, spine gilt in six compartments, gilt-lettered in second compartment [N. A. Indians], contemporary marbled endpapers, in a modern quarter morocco clamshell box with [Lewis - The Aboriginal Portfolio 1835-1836] in gilt on spine

One of the rarest 19th-century American color plate books and the first important series of Native American portraits to be published in the United States. Lewis captures granular visual details of these indigenous leaders, but also their individual grandeur; Lewis's subjects stare back at the viewer possessedly.

"Lewis is about to publish in numbers, a collection of Indian lithographic portraits taken by him during a residence of about fifteen years among the various tribes of the west. He has succeeded in obtaining numerous portraits, all of which are remarkably true to nature. Some of the lithographs we have examined, and we are sure that they are well calculated to excite interest." - St. Louis Commercial Bulletin, May 18, 1835. The Aboriginal Portfolio is the first published portrait collection of prominent Native American leaders, made "on the spot and in the field." It precedes and is rarer than George Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, Maximilian's Reise in das Innere Nord-America, and Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall's History of the Indian Tribes (itself deriviative of Lewis, using 27 of his portraits). The Portfolio is one of the earliest extended, monumental projects in American hand-colored lithography, and one of the first thorough works to document a subject beyond the East Coast of the United States. At a time when westward expansion, European influence, and reactionary US government policies were irreversibly reshaping Native communities, Lewis embarked on a mission to commemorate and record their diversity and heritage. The plates depict eminent chiefs and notable tribal members in distinguished poses with great detail, the portraits imbued with personality, recording their mode of dress, face paint, jewelry, weapons, and other accoutrements. Below each likeness is the name of the sitter along with their rank and tribal affiliation, which include, among others, Sioux, Miami, Chippawa, Ioway, Shawnee, Pottowattomie, Winnebago, Monomonie, Ottawa, Fox, and Sac. James Otto Lewis was born in Philadelphia in 1799, and went west with a theatrical troupe at the age of sixteen. In St. Louis he began working as an engraver and miniature portraitist. There he met the painter Chester Harding (1792-1866) whose popular depiction of Daniel Boone is the only portrait for which Boone is known to have sat. Lewis engraved this portrait for Harding; only one example survives and it is the earliest known print made west of the Mississippi. Lewis then lived in Detroit, where, in 1823, the governor of Michigan Lewis Cass asked him to paint Tens-qua-ta-wa, a Shawnee prophet in an official diplomatic delegation to the city (plate 67). Cass sent this portrait to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and a later competitior to Lewis, Thomas L. McKenney, and suggested Lewis be given $200 and be named an official government portraitist of Indian councils in the Great Lakes region. In this position, Lewis attended many treaty councils, including those at Prairie du Chien (plate 17) and Butte des Mort (plate 49). The Aboriginal Portfolio grows out of the drawings and paintings Lewis executed at these official councils. Subsequently, Lewis's depictions found wide circulation, in part due to copies by artists such as Charles Bird King. The original watercolors for Lewis's portraits in the Portfolio were acquired by the Smithsonian, but were lost in the fire of 1865 (Junker). Lewis's work traversed the boundaries of art as such to become an irreplaceable repository of anthropological and historical significance. Beyond their aesthetic allure, his lithographs are evidence of his profound respect for the cultural mosaic woven by Native Americans. The Aboriginal Portfolio was printed in Philadelphia by the master lithographers George Lehman (1803-1870) and Peter S. Duval (1804-1886), who, along with J. Barincou (fl.1830-1840), drew Lewis's images onto stone and meticulously hand-colored his prints. It was issued in ten parts, each part containing eight plates, and sold for "$2.00 per Number." Lewis and his Portfolio received immediate praise from the U.S. Gazette, New York Mirror, Commercial Herald, Knickerbocker, Saturday Evening Post, and, of course, Governor Cass. Despite the positive reviews, subscribers were scarce. Lewis's publication struggled toward the end of its run and, while part nine was still in the press, was forced to reduce the edition, limiting distribution, and making the final two parts, in Reese's words, "famously rare." The imminent publication of McKenney and Hall's competing project did not help. The tenth issue is so rare that Reese argues its publication did not actually happen until 1838, and Lewis's projected eleventh part, "Historical and Biographical Description of the Indians," was never completed. Only three complete sets of the Aboriginal Portfolio containing all 80 plates, a lithographed title page issued with the final part, and three advertisement leaves, are known to have sold at auction. Complete copies are next to impossible to obtain; Sabin only calls for 72 plates in his bibliography because finding the full eighty is so rare. And when the 80-plate copies are obtainable, they command a high price: Christie's sold one in 2005 for $307,200. This copy, containing 72 plates, the three prospectus advertisement leaves, and an original blue paper wrapper with the rare testimonial leaf, is as near to complete as one can hope to encounter.

Bennett, p.68. Celebration of My Country 175. Clements, One Hundred Michigan Rarities, 63. Eberstadt 131:418. Field 936. Howes, 6133, J-135, L-315. Junker, Works from the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 7. Reese, American Color Plate Books, 23. Reese, James Otto Lewis and His Aboriginal Portfolio. Reese, Stamped with a National Character, 23. Sabin 40812. St. Clair, The American Indian Portfolio. Wainwright, Philadelphia Lithography, pp.30-33.

Item #41112

Price: $72,500.00

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