2009 Winter Catalog, William R. Talbot Fine Art, Antique Maps & Prints Home

2009 Winter Catalog > 1. Catlin, “Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio.

1. George Catlin. “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: J. E. Adlard, 1844 [1855–65] first edition, second issue). Complete folio with bound title page, introduction and text accompanying 25 plates lithographed by Day & Haghe, Lithographers to the Queen, in black, white and sepia tones (“in printed tints”) on heavy-weight paper. Original portfolio in three-quarter red morocco with green pebbled cloth, rope design embossing, gilt embossed decorative leather title panel, and gilt embossed titling on spine. Folio: 24 x 17 1/2." Sheets: 23 1/2 x 17 1/4." Worn at spine and corners. Original cloth ties frayed to attachment points. 3 x 1/4" separation of cloth from leather at front cover. Minor soiling and spotting on lower 1/4 of title page. Plates have minor marginal age toning and wear at sheet corners, as is usual. With generally clean and bright images, overall condition is very fine.

Price: $70,000. $60,000. [ Order ]

During the 1830s, Catlin lived for years among the various North American Indian tribes, studying their ways. His published works provide us with the most authentic anthropological record of these already vanishing people.

A young lawyer turned portraitist, George Catlin traveled west from his home in Pennsylvania in 1830 to fulfill his dream of recording on canvas the North American Indians and their way of life. It was his desire, he said, to paint “faithful portraits of their principal personages, both men and women, from each tribe, views of their villages games, etc., and [to keep] full notes on their character and history. I designed, also, to procure their costumes, and a complete collection of their manufactures and weapons, and to perpetuate them in a Gallery Unique, for the instruction of the ages.” (Wagner)

Catlin’s Gallery included more than four hundred painted portraits and scenes of tribal life, from which the illustrations for his books were drawn.

Shortly after taking his “Gallery” to England for an extended period, Catlin self-published the first of the many editions of the North American Indian Portfolio. The prints were completed by the British lithographic firm Day & Haghe. Two first editions were issued: the “regular . . . in printed tints” for five guineas and the de luxe for eight guineas, printed in tints and hand colored.

The record Catlin created is unique, both in the breadth of information and in the depth of the sympathetic understanding that his images demonstrate. Catlin described the American Indian as “an honest, hospitable, faithful, brave, warlike, cruel, revengeful, relentless,—yet honourable, contemplative, and religious being.” He saw no future for either the Indian way of life or his very existence, and with these thoughts always at the back of his mind, he worked against time, setting himself a truly punishing schedule, to record what he saw. Catlin’s study remains one of the most widely circulated works on American Indians written in the nineteenth century, and the illustrations are valued for their highly important visual documentation of indigenous Indian life in the American West.

Refs.: Howes C-243; McCracken, no. 10; Sabin, no. 11532, Wagner-Camp, no. 105a-1.

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