LEWIS, James Otto (1799-1858)
The Aboriginal Portfolio
[Philadelphia: published by the author, 1835-1836]. Folio. (17 1/2 x 10 3/4 inches). Letterpress advertisements by Lewis for parts 1, 2 & 3 as issued. 72 hand-colored lithographed plates after Lewis by Lehman & Duval.
Original letterpress wrapper for part 5 bound in; modern red half morocco over 19th-century cloth, contemporary endpapers; modern quarter morocco clamshell box.
First edition. Scarcer than McKenney and Hall's 'History of the Indian Tribes', Prince Maximilian's 'Reise in das Innere von Nord-America' or Catlin's 'North American Indian Portfolio', Lewis' work records the dress of the Potawatomi, Winnebago, Shawnee, Sioux, Miami, Fox, Iowa and other tribes at treaties of Prairie du Chien, Fort Wayne, Fond du Lac and Green Bay.
The Aboriginal Port Folio was published in Philadelphia by lithographers George Lehman and Peter S. Duval. It was issued in ten parts, with each part containing eight plates. Given the size of the undertaking the first nine parts were issued remarkably quickly, and appeared monthly between May 1835 and January 1836. The reason for this haste is probably that Lewis was aware that the imminent appearance of the first part of McKenney and Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America would adversely affect his subscriber-numbers. His fears were well founded as the publisher was forced into bankruptcy while part nine was in the press, reducing the edition and forcing part ten to be just barely finished and sparsely distributed. A projected eleventh part would have contained "Historical and Biographical Description of the Indians," but was never completed. The evidence of this impact is seen in the surviving copies as there are a number of sets made up from eight parts (with 64 plates), but very few with nine parts (and 72 plates, as here, being the first 9 numbers) and only occasionally 80. James O. Lewis was born in Philadelphia in 1799, moved west as a teenager, and had become an engraver and painter by the time he was living in St. Louis in 1820. In 1823 he moved to Detroit, and painted the first of his Native American portraits at the request of Gov. Lewis Cass of Michigan. He accompanied Cass on four Indian treaty expeditions in the Great Lakes region in 1825-27 and painted Native Americans during the course of each. Virtually all of the originals of the images published here were executed by Lewis in this period. Subsequently, many of the Lewis portraits were copied by Charles Bird King, and some appeared in the King versions of the McKenney and Hall portfolio. All of the Lewis original paintings were destroyed in the Smithsonian fire of 1865.
Bennett p.68; Eberstadt 131:418; Field 936; Howes L-315; Sabin 40812.