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    The Fifth Text Volume of Edward S. Curtis's Monumental Work on the Indians of North America, Complete with Seventy-Six Sepia-Toned Photogravures

    Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952). The North American Indian. Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska. Written, Illustrated, and Published by Edward S. Curtis. Edited by Frederick Webb Hodge. Foreword by Theodore Roosevelt. Field Research Conducted under the Patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan. In Twenty Volumes. This, the Fifth Volume, Published in the Year Nineteen Hundred and Nine. [Cambridge, Massachusetts: The University Press], 1909. The fifth text volume of The North American Indian. First edition. One of 500 planned sets (of which apparently only 272 were actually printed). This copy is unnumbered. Large quarto (12.625 x 9.5 inches; 320 x 242 mm.). xii, 209, [1, blank] pages. Title printed in red and black. Complete with seventy-six sepia-toned photogravure plates (including frontispiece) from photographs by Edward Curtis printed on India Proof Paper mounted on Van Gelder paper watermarked "Holland," three with hand-coloring. With tissue guards. "Photogravures by John Andrew & Sons, Boston" (page ix). Disbound. Top edge trimmed, others uncut. Slight browning to uncut edges. Faint offsetting from tissue guards to facing text pages and to plate mounts, and from photogravures to facing text pages. Faint crease to lower edge of text block at gutter. A few additional very minor flaws, otherwise this is a very fine copy.

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    "With the assistance and patronage of several preeminent individuals, including J. P. Morgan, Theodore Roosevelt, and the kings of both England and Belgium, Curtis succeeded in creating a photo-ethnographic study that was widely hailed as the finest set of limited-edition books ever made in America. During this thirty-year project, Curtis made forty-five to fifty thousand negatives, many of them on glass and some as large as fourteen by seventeen inches. He produced ten thousand wax cylinder recordings of Native languages and music and filmed the first, and some of the most extensive, moving-picture footage ever made of Native Americans. All of this culminated in his magnum opus, The North American Indian: a twenty-volume, twenty-portfolio set of books hand-bound in leather, with hand-set letterpress text and hand-pulled photogravure prints, all printed on handmade, imported etching stock. The North American Indian contained more than 2,200 original photographs, printed in photogravure, and nearly 4,000 pages of anthropological text including transcriptions of language and music. Each set included twenty quarto-size volumes containing approximately seventy-five original photogravures and two hundred pages of text. The volumes were supplemented by bound portfolios, each containing approximately thirty-six oversize gravures on eighteen-by-twenty-two-inch etching stock. Curtis offered subscribers their choice of three premium handmade papers: Dutch Van Gelder, Japanese Vellum, and India Proof Paper (commonly known as tissue). Curtis believed the project would take him five to seven years; instead it took a quarter of a century...A benchmark of this renaissance is the value placed on exceptionally rare complete sets of The North American Indian. Today they are worth more than $1 million, nearly two thousand times what a set would have sold for in the 1960s. That Curtis, a man of humble background, was able to create this massive landmark publication makes his accomplishments all the more extraordinary." (Christopher Cardozo, Introduction to Sacred Legacy: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian (New York: Simon & Schuster, [2000] pages 19-20).

    "In this volume are grouped three tribes,-the Mandan [of North Dakota], the Arikara [of North Dakota], and the Atsina [of Montana],-all differing linguistically; but the first two have lived as close neighbors for so long that externally they are much alike...In the present weakened condition of the Mandan tribe, there is scant material for illustration. It is felt, however, that the text affords a very adequate idea of them and their former mode of life...The Arikara material is alive with illustrations, many of which picture a reënactment of their old-time medicine ceremony...So little has been written of the Atsina, and most of that has usually been of so derogatory a nature, that it is with much pleasure the present material is given" (pages [xi]-xii of the Introduction). Curtis describes the history and customs, religious beliefs and ceremonies, and mythology and folk-tales of each tribe. The Appendix contains "Tribal Summary" ([143]-,169), Vocabularies" (pages 169-177), "Biographical Sketches" (pages 178-184).

    "Never before have we seen the Indians of North America so close to the origins of their humanity, their sense of themselves in the world, their innate dignity and self-possession" (N. Scott Momaday, in Sacred Legacy, page 9).

    Howes C965.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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