Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians


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CATLIN, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians. Written During Eight Years' Travel amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-39. London: Published by the Author, 1841 [i.e. Edinburgh and London: W. and A.K. Johnston, circa 1892-94]. Two volumes. Royal octavo, original red pictorial cloth gilt, patterned endpapers.

Late 19th-century edition of Catlin’s monumental work in American ethnology, with 309 lithographs on 177 plates and three maps (one folding), in pictorial cloth-gilt.

One of "the nation's pioneer anthropologists," George Catlin wrote that "the history and the customs of such a people, preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from becoming their historian" (Hassrick, 15). A young lawyer turned portraitist, Catlin set out for the West in 1830 to record on canvas North American Indians and their way of life. His eight years among the major tribes of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains resulted in his "Indian Gallery," an enormous collection of artifacts as well as more than 400 portraits and scenes of tribal life. Less than two years after his arrival in London, Catlin published his Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of North American Indians, "one of the most original, authentic, and popular works on the subject" (Sabin 11536). It was immediately recognized as a monumental work in American ethnology, combining Catlin's unique knowledge and experiences with his rare artistic talent. "No individual has contributed so much, of such great importance; no individual has had a greater influence upon the Western Americana art, literature and history of our country than George Catlin" (McCracken). The 309 line-cut reductions of his original paintings, together with the accompanying text, beautifully and accurately record virtually every aspect of Native American life—ceremonies, dances, hunting methods, forms of warfare, and daily chores. This edition is one of several with a title page dated 1841, the year of the first edition, but actually printed later; the statement "Reprinted from the Original Plates 1892" has been excised from the verso of the front free endpaper in each volume.
McCracken 8E. See Wagner-Camp 84:2. Bookseller label in each volume; owner booklabel in Volume I.

Text and plates clean. Inner paper hinges expertly repaired, cloth generally clean, gilt bright. An extremely good set.

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