CATLIN, George (1796-1872). Illustrations of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians... London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848.

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CATLIN, George (1796-1872). Illustrations of the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians... London: Henry G. Bohn, 1848.


2 volumes. 8vo., (10 ¼ x 6 ¾ inches). Fine folding lithographed “Outline Map of Indian Localities in 1833” (a bit spotted), frontispiece lithographed map “U. States Indian Frontier in 1840” in volume II; full-page lithographed “Chart Shewing the Moves of the Mandans & the Place of their Extinction”; lithographed frontispiece in volume I; 309 lithographed illustrations on 176 plates after Catlin (occasional spotting). Original publisher’s red cloth, with a gilt Indian on horseback on each front cover, the spines elaborately lettered and decorated in gilt, with a buffalo head at the top of the spine, the title within a windcatcher, and a standing Indian with a spear below (extremities worn with loss, boards rubbed).

Seventh edition, first published in 1841. George Catlin was the first artist to travel widely among the Plains Indians of North America and create an important body of paintings and graphics to illustrate their customs and artifacts. His purpose was both unselfish and romantic. He wanted, and labored unceasingly, to persuade his contemporaries that Native American culture should be honored and preserved. When Catlin first issued this portfolio in 1844, his animated, colorful, sympathetic views of Native Americans filled the void of imagery. Suddenly, Europeans and Americans were able to visualize the people and customs of whom they had read so extensively, and to gain a level of respect for the Native Americans, so often feared, misunderstood or misrepresented. The artist’s stunning lithographs ranged from portraits to depictions of tribal ceremonies, from the anecdotal to the idealized. Catlin appealed to his readers with the thrill of the hunt and the mystery of ritual, and conveyed his respect for his subjects masterfully. The immediacy of his images is irresistible, drawing viewers into the scenes and portraits with unprecedented intimacy. But even when Catlin issued the “North American Indian Portfolio,” just fifteen years after his expedition, his crusade to preserve America’s “Noble Savage” was failing. The Indians were beginning to give way to the expansion of the American frontier and to European disease. Because most of Catlin’s paintings and collections were destroyed by fire and neglect, his lithographs remain the principal medium by which his message was conveyed, and they have come to hold even greater significance today than when they were first published. Howes C255. Sabin 11536 & 11537.