A SUPERB SET OF
THE McKENNEY & HALL OCTAVO EDITION
“One of the largest and most splendid works
which the literature and arts of the country have ever produced.”
— The Philadelphia Saturday American Courier, April 2, 1842.
Thomas L. McKenney &
James Hall. History of the Indian Tribes of North America, With
Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs.
Embellished With One Hundred and Twenty Portraits (Philadelphia:
D. Rice & A. N. Hart, 1855, 1858). 8vo. Three volumes with 120
hand-colored lithographs, printed and colored by J. T. Bowen. Volume
I is the fourth ed. dated 1858; volumes. II and III are the third ed.
dated 1855. Bound in contemporary full brown morocco, gilt titles,
blind-stamped decoration and raised bands to spine, blind-stamped
rules and decoration to boards, all edges gilt. Some extremely minor professional restoration to each volume.
Otherwise, practically pristine with all tissue guards intact. Overall, a superb, clean example with bright,
beautiful color and desirable evidence of gum arabic. Certainly one
of the best examples in existence today.
McKenney was Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs under
Presidents Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Jackson, and he
maintained a passionate interest in Native American customs and
beliefs throughout his lifetime. The famous Cincinnati author,
newspaper editor, and frontier lawyer James Hall joined forces with
McKenney to create the Indian Portrait Gallery published in three portfolios
beginning in 1836.
Hall supplied the text, while
McKenney commissioned the artist Charles Bird King to paint portraits
of the leading Indian chiefs, either from life or by repainting the
earlier, cruder attempts of Detroit artist James Otto Lewis and, in a
few cases, other painters from the colonial era. Together McKenney
and Hall turned the portraits (collectively known as the War
Department gallery) into a coherent representation of Indian life,
lore, and costume. The result was a spectacular series of images,
certainly the best series of such portraits to be produced in
America, and a unique source for the study of Native Americans.
Initially, the publication was distributed by subscription, and the
final volume was published in 1844 by Daniel Rice and James G. Clark.
However, Rice & Clark was taken over by the new firm of Rice &
Hart, who published the first royal octavo edition in 1848–1850.
The present set comprises the third octavo edition (volumes 2 and 3)
and the fourth editon (volume 1) by Rice & Hart, dated,
respectively, 1855 and 1858.
types of Indians are included in this significant work—from
noble warriors and imposing statesmen to the most downtrodden
tribesmen and exploited chiefs. The fact that King’s original
oil paintings were destroyed in a fire that swept the Smithsonian
Institution castle in 1865 yields further importance to the
anthropological documentation provided by History of the Indian
Tribes of North America.A classic work of Americana and Native
Americana, with the plates free of the foxing that often plagues the
book, and competitively priced.
Whitman Bennett, A Practical Guide to American Nineteenth-Century
Color Plate Books, p. 79 (folio edition); Howes, M129 (8vo
edition); Herman J. Viola, The Indian Legacy of Charles Bird King
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1976).