“TRULY A LANDMARK IN AMERICAN CULTURE”: MCKENNEY’S INDIAN TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA, WITH 120 SPLENDID HAND-COLORED PLATES
MCKENNEY, Thomas and HALL, James. History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs. Philadelphia: D. Rice and A.N. Hart, 1855. Three volumes. Royal octavo, original deluxe full brown morocco rebacked with original spine laid down, decorative blind-stamped cover-borders, raised bands, all edges gilt. $32,000.
Early octavo edition of one of the most recognized and desirable American color plate books produced in the 19th century, illustrated with 120 splendid fully hand-colored lithographic plates by J.T. Bowen after Charles Bird King’s original oil paintings, “the most colorful portraits of Indians ever executed” (Howes). Handsome in publisher’s deluxe morocco.
In commissioning the Indian Tribes of North America, McKenney aimed to educate the American public about these greatly exotic warriors and chiefs and to preserve them for posterity in a series of beautiful portraits. Most of the original oil portraits were painted from life in studio of Charles Bird King, to whom McKenney brought many of the subjects. The rest were copied from watercolors executed in the field by a young frontier artist named James Otto Lewis. The finished portraits resided in the Smithsonian until 1865, when fire consumed the institution and destroyed most of the paintings. As a result, the folio and octavo editions are particularly vital in their "faithful recording of the features and dress of celebrated American Indians who lived and died long before the age of photography" (McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery, 23). First published in folio 1836-44 and in octavo 1848-50. Howes M129. Field 992. See Sabin 43411.
Occasional spotting to text, light expert cleaning to preliminaries. A beautiful copy.