Catlin, George (1796-1872), Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America.....Forty-eight of the Wildest and Most Remote Tribes of Savages in North America, New York: James Ackerman, 1845, first American edition, first issue, original half morocco with marbled boards, with twenty-five hand colored plates heightened with gum arabic, six on buff paper, folio, each plate 15 3/8 by 16 in., (ex-library copy with blindstamps to lower margin slightly affecting the edge of most images, left edge marginal smudging throughout, very light spotting, two plates with very minor tears, binding heavily worn). Howes C-243; Reese issue II:6; Sabin 11532n; Bennett 22.
Note: George Catlin's magnificent series of engravings shown here are a part of the legacy by which he will long be remembered as one of the first and most daring of the artists who braved the Central and Northern Plains in an heroic attempt to personalize the Native American tribes of this region. Explorers had, for centuries, traveled the various part of North America with various motives, both savory and unsavory. Fantastical tales of the various tribes, their rituals, dress and ways of life were so shrouded in mystery that Americans and Europeans alike were clamoring for an accurate chronicle of the ways of Native American tribal life. Catlin not only wanted to capture the imagination of the curious public, but also to use the beauty and simplicity of the people to generate a sympathetic view towards them. Ignorance and fear fueled the pervasive attitudes of the day and Catlin held himself out not only as an artist, but also an educator. It is widely believed that he first encountered a Native American delegation in Philadelphia and that inspired him to leave his career as a lawyer and accompany General William Clark on a diplomatic mission up the Missouri River in 1830. Over the course of the next six years, Catlin made five journeys and visited over fifty tribes. The North American Indian Portfolio chronicles the life and rituals of three of these tribes, the Iroquois, Pawnee and Osage. The images are vivid symbols of the majesty of these peoples and form a cohesive and accurate story worthy of his standing as one of the preeminent artists of the period. As Catlin stated, "The history and customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life shall prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian".