Description

    Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall (Folio): History of the Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs Embellished with One Hundred and Twenty Portraits from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington. Three volumes: Volume I (Philadelphia: Frederick W. Greenough, 1838), 206 pages; Volume II (Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James G. Clark, 1842), 231 pages: Volume III (Philadelphia: Daniel Rice and James G. Clark, 1844), 196 pages + The Genuineness of the Portrait of Pocahontas (two pages), Indian Tribe Map (one page), facsimiles of original subscriber signatures (17 pages). All matching, elephant folio (14.5" x 20"), all edges gilt, half morocco with gilt stamped "Indian Gallery 120 Illustrations" on the fronts and gilt titles on banded spines. Overall condition is very good with only minor shelf wear to boards, bindings tight, pages bright, and plates, pages, and tissue guards present. Only scattered occurrences of very light foxing and one noted minor edge repair to page 48 of Volume III.

    In Thomas McKenney's position as Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. between 1816 and 1830, he was frequently brought into contact with representatives of the many Indian tribes as they traveled to the Capital to negotiate treaties or voice grievances. McKenney became near obsessed with learning more about their cultures and histories. He collected relics and artifacts, and then commissioned local artist Charles Bird King to paint a series of portraits from life of the various tribal representatives during their visits to Washington. Many of these portraits were hung in the "Indian Gallery" at the Department of War. His interviews with these Native Americans supplied much of the material for collaborator James Hall's biographical texts found in these volumes. When dismissed from his post by Andrew Jackson, McKenney put his full effort into publishing a portfolio of these majestic images, thus preserving the history of the first Americans for all time. He endured many trials including near poverty over the next fourteen years before his project came to complete fruition with the publication of the last volume in 1844. Luckily for us, McKenney did persevere to realize his dream; most of the original paintings from which these lithographs were drawn were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian in 1865. This present masterwork is the only record we have of the life and likeness of many of the pre Civil War period Indians. Photographers insured that the portraits of later generations of Native Americans would live on, but it took a visionary like McKenney to give us such a detailed look at their lives and lore before it would be changed (lost) forever.

    This is one of the most important works ever produced on the American Indians and certainly one of the most elaborate and beautiful plate books from the period. The striking hand-colored images have caused many of these sets and volumes to be broken for its plates that can sell for thousands of dollars each. This makes finding a clean set such as this a remarkable feat. We can only hope that it remains in its present state for another 160+ years allowing future generations to enjoy this monumental work.




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    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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