DescriptionThe Harriman Twenty-Volume Set from Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: The Most Important Such Set Remaining in Private Hands.
"I like a man who attempts the impossible." - J. P. Morgan, legendary financier and philanthropist, and principal patron of The North American Indian
"In Mr. Curtis we have an artist and a trained observer, whose pictures are pictures, not merely photographs; whose work has far more than mere accuracy, because it is truthful... Mr. Curtis in publishing this book is rendering a real and great service; a service not only to our own people, but to the world." - President Theodore Roosevelt
This represents the final compilation of decades of field photography and research by Edward S. Curtis (1868 - 1952) who labored under Morgan's patronage for twenty-three years, from 1907 - 1930, to complete the series. Picturing and describing in unprecedented detail the Native Americans of the Western United States and Alaska, these volumes include some 1511 hand-printed illustrations (including 1505 photogravures, four maps, and two diagrams), as well as over 3000 pages of text and translations of languages and music.
The Set consists of twenty Volumes: Text, Quarto (313 x 239 mm), in publisher's original brown half morocco, gilt and buckram, top edges gilt, others uncut, stamp-signed by H. Blackwell, master bookbinder. Each volume is numbered 308 on verso of the half-title page, and is housed in an elegant custom-made slipcase.
It is difficult to fully envision the scope of Curtis's project. Its cost has been estimated, in dollars adjusted for inflation, at $30,000,000 - $35,000,000. According to noted author and critic A.D. Coleman, the result is "an absolutely unmatched masterpiece of visual anthropology, and is one of the most thorough, extensive, and profound photographic works of all time." (Sacred Legacy: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian, ed. Christopher Cardozo, NY, 2000, page 25). These volumes constitute one of the most comprehensive ethnographic records ever accomplished, as well as one of the most ambitious undertakings in fine book making.
"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-possessions." - N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American author
Originally an edition of 500 sets was proposed, but only 214 sets were subscribed to, and another sixty were compiled and sold later. The set offered here was obtained by the consignor in 1999 from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation. Mary was the widow of railroad magnate Edward Harriman, another of Curtis's most important patrons. According to the Curtis biography Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan. Mary Harriman was listed in a letter written by Curtis in 1912 as one of the prominent subscribers to the set. Thus, it should be noted that Set #308 (The Harriman Set) was undoubtedly listed with Curtis' company, The North American Indian, Inc., at some point, under the name of Mrs. E.H. Harriman. It is unclear whether this occurred before or after E.H. Harriman's death in 1909, two years after the introduction of The North American Indian series. It was Edward Harriman who financed the 1899 Alaska expedition for which Curtis served as the original photographer, and which would provide the inspiration and impetus for Curtis's magnum opus, The North American Indian. Volume I is signed by Curtis and dated 1907, the year the first volume appeared with an introduction by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Harriman Set is of the highest quality available, printed on India Proof Paper ("tissue") tipped in, and Dutch Van Gelder Paper. Only an estimated fifteen of the original subscriber sets were printed on tissue, including Curtis's personal set and those of J. P Morgan and the King of England. These last three sets are all housed in institutional collections, leaving only the Harriman Set still available for private ownership.
EDWARD H. HARRIMAN AND EDWARD S. CURTIS
"Much good work is lost for want of a little more." - Edward H. Harriman
Harriman (1848 - 1909) rose from humble beginnings to become one of the five wealthiest men in the world. A grade-school drop-out, he enjoyed a meteoric rise on Wall Street before turning his energies to railroads at the age of thirty-three. He has been designated one of history's twenty most important business leaders by Forbes magazine. His son Averell would become an ambassador, cabinet member, and governor of New York, and during the 1950s was a serious aspirant to the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States. Upon Edward's death, his wife Mary, sole heir to his vast estate, would become an active philanthropist. The twenty loose supplementary portfolios of photos which accompanied the twenty volume set were dispersed over the years, but the Volumes have remained intact until the Set was obtained by the present owner from the Mary Harriman Foundation in 1999.
In 1899 Edward Harriman organized and financed the largest and most famous scientific expedition the world had ever seen, the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Scientists made over 600 important discoveries during the expedition, and created an invaluable survey and assessment of Alaska in the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, when the Territory was going through major transition. The project would lend impetus to the nascent movement to preserve America's wilderness, a movement spearheaded by Harriman Expedition member John Muir, and soon after by Curtis's greatest champion Theodore Roosevelt.
Curtis was named the official photographer of the Expedition, on which he met and worked with many of the great scientific luminaries of the day. One of these was George Bird Grinnell, with whom Curtis went to live in Montana the following year to photograph the Blackfeet and Piegan. It was the watershed moment in Curtis's professional life, and launched him on his thirty year mission to create The North American Indian. Without his seminal experiences on the Harriman Alaska Expedition, it is doubtful that Curtis would ever have envisioned or created his masterwork.
Point of Clarification
In light of recent scholarship, Heritage has modified our description of this lot. In his new biography on Edward Curtis, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Timothy Egan mentions a letter that Edward Curtis wrote in 1912 which lists Mrs. E.H. Harriman as one of a number of prominent subscribers to The North American Indian, rather than Mr. E.H. Harriman (page 217). It is thus uncertain whether the Harrimans' Set was originally listed in the name of Mr. or Mrs. Harriman. In either case Edward Harriman's deep and abiding connection to Edward Curtis and Curtis's work with Native people would have certainly been the primary motivation in acquiring this landmark in publishing history. While this distinction may seem to fall under the heading of historical minutiae, in the spirit of strictest accuracy it is perhaps best to refer to this original subscriber Set of the Curtis volumes simply as the "Harriman Set".
EDWARD S. CURTIS
"It's such a big dream, I can't see it all." - Edward S. Curtis
Curtis is perhaps the most widely collected and exhibited fine art photographer in the 170-year history of the medium. His work has been exhibited in over forty countries, and is found in thousands of private and public collections including those of the Getty Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum, and The Museum of Modern Art.
Edward Curtis grew up in poverty and his formal education ended with the sixth grade. He was largely self-taught in photography, but would go on to win numerous awards and become the friend and associate of presidents, kings, titans of business and industry, and important tribal leaders throughout the Western United States and Canada. His three-decade commitment to The North American Indian left Curtis a broken man. His health, finances, and family were all sacrificed in his single-minded pursuit of his dream, but he left a sacred legacy which will endure for generations to come. Curtis would no doubt be stunned and gratified to know that sets of his twenty volumes and twenty supplementary portfolios consistently command prices well into seven figures from collectors and institutional buyers. In the end, this valuation by the marketplace constitutes a meaningful judgment on the merits of his life's work.
THE HARRIMAN SET
In any category of art or collectibles, condition is of paramount importance. This is particularly so with fine photography and rare books, where condition issues can seriously impair one's visual appreciation of the work. In that regard, the Harriman Set is a standout example, surely one of the most original and best-preserved tissue sets which have survived. The bindings are fresh and bright, and the details remain warm and lustrous. The interior pages are equally exceptional, showing only a soft, light patina of age. Indeed, the volumes have a feel of having been opened rarely, if at all.
Together with the supporting materials described below, the Harriman Set, in remarkable condition and with historic provenance, is almost certainly the finest stand-alone set of volumes in private hands, and is offered here on the open market for the first time.
ACCOMPANYING PRINT, BOOK, AND EPHEMERA COLLECTION
As a lifelong scholar and avid collector of all things Curtis, the consignor has built an unparalleled collection of prints, correspondence, and other ephemera relating to E.H. Harriman and Curtis. Upon obtaining the Harriman Set in 1999, the consignor made a special effort, building on material already in his collection, to develop this complementary collection in order to further enrich the Twenty Volume Harriman Set. The complimentary collection comprises fifty-three mostly rare or unique photographs, books, and related ephemera, a number of which were specifically acquired for this supplemental collection. This collection would be impossible to duplicate today and includes a highly desirable full sheet photographic self-portrait of Curtis, a possibly unique platinum photo of Harriman by the master, and a wide variety of books and ephemera related to the Harriman Alaska Expedition and The North American Indian. A complete inventory of this valuable supplementary archive can be found below.
ABOUT THE CONSIGNOR
Christopher Cardozo is widely regarded as one of the leading authorities on Edward S. Curtis. His personal collection, 39 years in the making, is almost certainly the most extensive Curtis collection ever assembled. Cardozo is the author of eight monographs on Curtis, and has created and curated one-person Curtis exhibitions that have been seen in nearly 100 venues in over forty countries on every continent except Antarctica.
"No individual, other than Curtis himself, has done more for the increased awareness of Edward S. Curtis and his marvelous photographs." (Bullfinch Press, 2005).
Cardozo first discovered the work of Edward Curtis in 1973, when a friend who was inspecting Cardozo's own sepia-toned photographs of Native people pointed out the similarity to Curtis's work. Cardozo had just spent six months living in an isolated tribal village where he had shot over 10,000 negatives, created film footage, made sound recordings of language and music, and collected traditional clothing, utilitarian objects, etc. He immediately developed a deep affinity for Curtis's work, and began a forty year odyssey of scholarship and collecting. His personal collection has been exhibited in major museums in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Paris (to record-breaking attendance). A major international tour is planned for the collection in 2014-2015, and Cardozo is immersed in putting together what will be the definitive reference book on Curtis's work.
Christopher Cardozo holds a BFA (Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude) in photography and film, and is a widely exhibited photographer in his own right. He also hold a Juris Doctor degree and has lectured on financial and legal aspects of owning works of art. His own photographs may found in many public and private collections including the permanent collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. He was the youngest person in the 100-year history of the Minneapolis Museum of Art to have a one-person show, and his photographs of indigenous people have been widely collected and exhibited. His background as a fine art photographer and emotional connection to Native People have allowed him to fully appreciate the power and beauty of Curtis's work, and he is widely respected in the collecting world for introducing an unprecedented level of scholarship and connoisseurship.
Cardozo has also lectured internationally on the subject of Edward Curtis, and has been a frequent consultant to major auction houses and appraisers, as well as significant museums including the Morgan Library and Museum. His counsel has been sought in building many of the country's leading private collections. His personal collection was the subject of the widelyheralded monograph: Sacred Legacy: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian and the award-winning Native Nations. Cardozo's books have been translated into five languages, and over 300,000 copies are in print.
Cardozo has also been active in philanthropy, supporting many American Indian causes and non-profits, as well as arts and environmental organizations, for over three decades. He is the Founder and Board Chair of the Edward S. Curtis Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the photographer's work. It is currently developing new exhibition models and avenues for education which will bring a new awareness and appreciation of the beauty, heart, and spirit of Curtis's Sacred Legacy to a worldwide audience.
He considers the Harriman Collection to be the "crown jewel" of his personal collection, and hopes that its sale will help generate funds which will help further his personal goals and those of the Foundation.
"The twenty Volumes are truly the 'heart and soul' of The North American Indian. While one can develop a great appreciation of Curtis' photographic skills from the images in the supplementary portfolios, it is only through the Volumes that one can understand the full scope of this 23-year project. While the volumes contain over 2/3 of the photographic images, (including many rarely or never reproduced elsewhere), it is only in the thousands of pages of anthropological text and transcriptions of language and music that one can comprehend the audaciousness of his dream and the depth and breadth of his scholarship. The North American Indian not only strives to document Native Americans on film, but to capture for all time their vanishing way of life."
SOME REFLECTIONS ON EDWARD S. CURTIS AND THIS REMARKABLE OFFERING
Over my eight years as head of the Americana department at Heritage I have been privileged to help bring to market a number of important objects which exhibited to varying degrees qualities such as historical significance, rarity, intrinsic appeal, exceptional condition, provenance, and investment value. But only rarely are we able to offer something which has them all. No item we have offered in the Historical area has more completely exhibited all these qualities than the Harriman set.
Edward Curtis's compelling portraits and artfully composed landscapes and still lifes are not simply ethnographic records, but are works of art which rise to the level of the very best photographers in any category. Clearly this has come to be recognized in a way which manifests itself in the marketplace. In recent decades photography has been one of the "hot" areas in the art world, with photographic works receiving high recognition in major museums and achieving stratospheric prices at auction. Edward Curtis is clearly poised to take his place in a pantheon which includes Ansel Adams, Carlton Watkins, and other masters of the medium. Rumblings in the marketplace began in 1993, when a set of The North American Indian set the world record for a photographic lot at auction, selling at Sotheby's for exactly one thousand times what it had fetched at the same auction house forty years earlier. Several years ago a major museum purchased a set of the twenty Curtis volumes and twenty portfolios for a price reliably reported to be approximately $2 million dollars. In April 2012 a major New York auction house sold a similar set in exceptional condition for a record price of $2,882,500. Perhaps even more tellingly, in October of this year a set with a variety of condition issues made $1,444,000 in another New York auction, setting an all-time single lot price record for that firm. Beginning in 2006, a number of individual Curtis prints have sold for over $100,000 each at auction. Clearly, something is up.
If one aspires to own an example of Curtis's masterwork, one could make no finer choice than the set presented here. The bound set encompasses over 1500 photogravures and over 3000 pages of hand letterpress printed text. This example is printed on the most expensive stock, and is in virtually unimprovable condition, having a subtle patina of age, but no more. With the Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan sets permanently ensconced in institutional collections, the Harriman Set carries the most important provenance of any set ever likely to be available for purchase. In addition, it is accompanied by a significant supporting collection of related items, assembled painstakingly over decades, including a rare and possibly unique Curtis studio portrait of Harriman and a stellar example of Curtis's iconic self-portrait, itself now commanding a five-figure price.
In the economic climate of the last five years fine art and collectibles markets have experienced significant adjustments. But one trend which has been seen across the boards is a steadily rising demand for the very best in any category. Collectors, institutions, and investors alike would do well to recognize the exceptional opportunity presented by this appearance of the Edward Harriman collection at auction.
PRINT, EPHEMERA, AND BOOK COLLECTION
This part of the collection consists of fifty-three historic objects, many of which are rare or unique. Over forty years of the owner's active acquisition of Curtis material has resulted in this singular collection, which has never before been offered for sale. This material adds significant historical context, particularly with respects to Curtis' contributions to the Harriman Alaska Expedition, as well as insight into Curtis' efforts to promote and sell subscriptions to The North American Indian. Complete listing of the items in this collection is as follows:
EDWARD CURTIS ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY
-Bergs Stranded at Low Tide. Vintage photogravure, 7 x 10 inches.
-Eskimo Topek, Plover Bay, Siberia, July 1899. Vintage photogravure from the Harriman Expedition, 7" x 10.25"
-Serpentine Glacier, Harriman Fiord. Vintage photogravure from the Harriman Expedition, 10" x 7".
-Untitled (Lake with Canoe). Vintage gelatin silver print from the Harriman Expedition, 6" x 7.625".
-Harriman Expedition (Prince William Sound, Alaska 1899). Vintage gelatin silver print, 4.75" x 6.5".
-Untitled. Hand-colored photogravure (with above print), 4.75" x 6.75".
-Untitled (Icey Cliffs). Hand-colored photogravure from the Harriman Expedition, 3.5" x 6.125".
-South Corner and Harriman Glacier, North Corner. Two photogravures from the Harriman Expedition, 12" x 9.5".
-Untitled (Curtis 286, Harriman Glacier, South Corner) and Untitled (Curtis 285A, Harriman Glacier, North Corner). Two photogravures from Harriman Expedition, 12" x 9.5".
-Untitled (Stream). Photogravure from the Harriman Expedition, 4.25" x 7.25".
-Harriman Expedition (At Lowe Inlet, British Columbia). Photogravure from the Harriman Expedition, 4.125" x 7.125".
-E.H. Harriman portrait. Platinum print, circa 1900, 7.875" x 5.75". Signed by Curtis on vintage double mount in original vintage presentation folder.
-Harriman Expedition. Hand-colored photogravure, 6" x 8".
-Harriman Expedition (Columbia Glacier). Hand-colored photogravure, 3.75" x 6".
-Harriman Expedition (Fjord and glacier). Hand-colored photogravure, 6 "x 7.625".
-Harriman Expedition (Deserted Indian Village, Cape Fox, Alaska). Photogravure, 4.25" x 7".
-Harriman Expedition (Homes). Gelatin silver print, 5.75" x 7.75".
-Assiniboine Camp near the Rocky Mountains. Plate cover, 5.5" x 7.5".
-Flute Boys, Priest and Maidens. Plate cover, 4.7" x 7.5".
-Flute Boys, Priest and Maidens - holographic on verso. Gelatin silver print, 6" x 7.875".
-Chemehuevi House on Colorado River. Plate cover, 5.5" x 7.5".
-A Cave at Middle Mesa. Plate cover, 5" x 7.5".
-A Cave at Middle Mesa. Gelatin silver print, 6"x 7.875".
-Sia Footgear. Plate cover, 5.5" x 7.25".
-Sia Footgear. Photogravure. 5.5" x 7.25".
-Koskimo Dandy-Kwakiutl. Photogravure, 7.5" x 5.5".
-Gyakum-Koskimo (Portrait of Woman Wrapped in Blanket). Photogravure, 7.625" x 4.25".
-Edward Curtis self portrait. Photogravure, 1899, 10" x 7".
-Guildhall Library J.P. Morgan gift / reviews. Four page bi-fold piece created by Curtis for promotional purposes. Beautifully printed on French Normandy vellum and comprises over thirty reviews from 1905 to 1908. Various reviews of The North American Indian and testimonials about Curtis. Some of the noted writers include George Bird Grinnell, C. Hart Merriam, H. E. Huntington, Francis E. Leupp (Commissioner of Indian Affairs). Also includes an extended except of a review of The North American Indian from The New York Times. 12.75" x 9.5".
-The North American Indian original prospectus. Promotional material published by Curtis to generate interest and attract subscribers.12.5" x 9.5".
-Harriman Alaska Expedition Volume I-III. 10.25" x 7.5" x 6".
-The North American Indian outline and subscription agreement describing the scope of project and the quality of the work. One page, 10.5" x 8".
-Green Hotel, Pasadena, announcement for display of select photographs from The North American Indian. One page, 7.5" x 5.5".
-Typed letter signed from Edward Curtis to Mr. C.J. Brickson, encouraging the latter to subscribe to The North American Indian, June 10, 1913. One page, 8.5" x 11".
-Curtis lecture notes. A one-page report, dated April 15, 1907, written by the former director of an American Indian agency comprising eighteen different tribal groups on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Handwritten notes and drawings on recto, probably in Curtis' hand, raising questions and issues for further research and possible inclusion in one of his lectures. 11" x 8.5".
-Typed letter signed on The North American Indian letterhead from Edward Curtis to Mr. Partington, March 8, 1909. One page, 8.5" x 11".
RARE BOOKS, JOURNALS, AND MAGAZINES
-Camera, December 1973. The first magazine issue devoted entirely to Curtis. Published at the very beginning of the 1970s Curtis revival, the issue includes an important scholarly article by Allan Porter (then the magazine's Editor-in-Chief), detailed tribal information, and an extensive portfolio of approximately forty Curtis photographs--including four images that are two-page spreads.
-North American Expeditions, Including: ...Harriman Alaska Expedition...
-Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indian Project in the Field. Mick Gidley, Editor.
-The Harriman Alaska Expedition, Retraced: A Century of Change. Thomas S. Litwin, Editor. Introduction by David Rockefeller, Jr.
-Scribner's Magazine, volume 37.
-Scribner's Magazine, volume 39.
-Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences, Volumes 5, 13, 14, and 18.
All volumes subtitled "Papers from the Harriman Alaska Expedition." Each involves a different aspect of the scientific research done on the expedition by four different authors - E. A. Schwarz, Alexander W. Evans, O. Heidemann, and Trevor Kincaid.
-Edward Harry Harriman. John Muir, author, famed naturalist, founder of the Sierra Club, and member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition.
-Looking Far North: The Harriman Expedition to Alaska. William H. Goetzmann and Kay Sloan, authors.
-The Harriman Expedition to Alaska. George Bird Grinnell, author, expert on American Indian culture and member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition.
-Papers from the Harriman Alaska Expedition, XVII. Theo. Pergande, author.
-Indian Days of the Long Ago: Indian Life and Indian Lore. Edward S. Curtis, author.
- Papers from the Harriman Alaska Expedition V20. Wesley Roswell Coe, author, biologist on the Harriman Alaska Expedition.
-Alaska 1899: Essays from the Harriman Expedition. George Bird Grinnell, author.
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