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

2009 Winter Catalog > 7. Catlin, “North American Indians: Being Letters & Notes on their Manners.”

7. George Catlin. “North American Indians: Being Letters & Notes on their Manners, Customs and Conditions, Written During Eight Years’ Travel Amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-39” (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1926). Two octavo volumes, complete with 320 color lithograph illustrations, including 3 maps, one folding. Original red cloth pictorial covers, stamped in black and gilt. Top edges gilt. Interior fine with light age toning. Covers have light wear at edges and toning on spines. Presented with mylar dust jackets and slipcase. Near-fine condition.

Price: $2,500. [ Order ]

This is a beautiful edition of George Catlin’s classic study of Native American life, which was originally published in 1841 as Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians.

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.

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.

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’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. (1841 ed.): Wagner-Camp 84:20; Sabin 11536; Howes C241.

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