Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    A Wonderful Set of the Magnificent McKenney and Hall Indian Portraits

    Thomas L. McKenney, and James Hall. 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. Philadelphia: Published by Frederick W. Greenough, 1838 (Volume I); Published by Daniel Rice and James G. Clark, 1842 (Volume II); Published by Daniel Rice and James G. Clark, 1844 (Volume III).

    First edition of McKenney and Hall's renowned portraits of American Indians. Second issue of Volume I (with title-page in BAL State C), second issue of Volume II (with title-page in BAL State B), and first issue of Volume III (with title-page in BAL State A). Three large folio volumes (19.6875 x 14.125 inches; 510 x 360 mm.). [2, title], [2, contents], [3]-4, [1]-202, [1], [1, blank], [203]-204; [2, title], [2, contents], [3]-237, [1, blank]; [2, title], [2, contents], [1]-196, [2, "The Genuineness of the Portrait of Pocahontas"] pages plus seventeen pages of lithographed facsimile signatures of the original subscribers, on nine leaves.

    With 120 finely hand-colored lithographed plates, heightened with gum arabic, including three frontispieces after Peter Rindisbacher and Karl Bodmer, and 117 portrait plates after Henry Inman's copies of the original oil paintings mostly by Charles Bird King, drawn on stone by Albert Newsam, Alfred Hoffy, Ralph Tremblay, Henry Dacre, and others, printed and colored by J. T. Bowen and others. The "War Dance" plate is in BAL State D (with the caption "War Dance" and the imprint of F. W. Greenough, dated 1838), and the "Red Jacket" plate is in BAL State F (with the caption "Red-Jacket. / Seneca War Chief" and the imprint of E. C. Biddle, dated 1837), the order of the states being "all but arbitrary." Volume III with two lithographed maps ("Localities of all the Indian Tribes of North America in 1833" and "Present Localities of the Indian Tribes west of the Mississippi, showing the boundaries of the Indian Tribes in 1843") and one table ("Statement Showing the number of each tribe of Indians, whether natives of, or emigrants to the country west of the Mississippi, with items of emigration and subsistence. 1842 & 1843") printed on the recto of one leaf.

    In this copy, the plates in Volume I are dated 1837 (with the imprint of E. C. Biddle) and 1838 (with the imprint of F. W. Greenough); the plates in Volume II are dated 1837 (with the imprint of E. C. Biddle), 1838 (with the imprint of F. W. Greenough), 1841 (with the imprint of J. T. Bowen), and 1842 (with the imprint of Daniel Rice and James G. Clark); and the plates in Volume III are dated 1842 and 1843 (all with the imprint of Daniel Rice and James G. Clark).

    Expertly bound to style in half black morocco over original green morocco-grain cloth over heavy boards. Spines in seven compartments with six gilt-decorated raised bands, decoratively tooled in gilt in five compartments and lettered in gilt in the remaining two, front covers decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt, edges stained yellow and sprinkled green. Yellow coated endpapers. The cloth boards are slightly rubbed, with some discoloration. In Volume I, the front pastedown is renewed, there is foxing to the verso of the front free endpaper and front flyleaf, dampstaining to the lower corner of the front free endpaper and the front flyleaf; dampstaining to the lower edge of the rear flyleaf (which is creased vertically and browned, with a small chip at the lower edge), and rear free endpaper and pastedown. In Volume II, the front free endpaper, rear flyleaf, and rear free endpaper are renewed, and the upper and lower corners of the front flyleaf are dampstained. In Volume III, the front endpapers are foxed and browned, there is dampstaining to the lower margin of the front free endpaper and front flyleaf, and the rear endpapers are darkened and soiled at the edges, with a short tear to the lower margin of the rear pastedown.

    In Volume I, the contents leaf is torn across, with an expert and almost invisible repair, just affecting a few letters; a tiny repair to the upper corner of the plate facing page 31 ("Push-Ma-Ta-Ha"); a five-inch tear to the plate facing page 59 ("Wesh-Cubb"), between the portrait and the caption, expertly and almost invisibly repaired. In Volume II, the frontispiece is just slightly shorter, with a one-inch tear to the lower blank margin, expertly repaired, and a slight horizontal crease across the lower blank margin. In Volume III, the frontispiece is one-half-inch shorter, remargined at the outer edge, just affecting the top edge of the image, with the black rule supplied in ink; there is a two-inch tear to the outer blank margin of pages 9/10. Occasional faint marginal soiling or foxing to the text, some very occasional slight offsetting from the text to the plate versos, very faint foxing to some plates. A few plates with tiny bits of color rubbed away. Overall, this is an exceptional copy, generally clean and fresh, with the coloring vivid and bright.

    "As early as 1824, the practice was begun of taking portraits of the principal Indians who came to Washington, and depositing them in the War Department. They were chiefly painted by Mr. [Charles Bird] King, an artist of high repute, who has been remarkably successful in transferring to his canvas the strong lineaments of the Indian countenance. Col. M'Kinney [sic], who was for many years superintendent of Indian affairs at Washington, and was thus brought in constant association with the principal men of the nations and tribes which sent representatives to the seat of government, conceived the plan of making this rare and curious collection more valuable to the world by publishing a series of engraved portraits exactly copied and colored from these paintings. With each portrait is connected a biographical sketch of the individual whom it is intended to represent, interspersed with anecdotes and narrations. The work contains also a historical account ["An Essay on the History of the North American Indians. By James Hall"] of the various Indian tribes within the borders of the United States" (Sabin).

    "The work is one of the most costly and important ever published on the American Indians. The plates are accurate portraits of celebrated chiefs, or of characteristic individuals of the race; and are colored with care, to faithfully represent their features and costumes" (Field).

    "With 120 folio plates in three volumes, this the grandest color plate book issued in the United States up to the time of its publication, and one of the most important of the century. Its long and checkered publication history spanned twelve years and involved multiple lithographers (mainly Peter S. Duval and James T. Bowen) and publishers, but the final product is one of the most distinctive and important books in Americana. Almost all the plates are portraits of individual Native Americans, the majority painted from life by Charles Bird King (who also reworked the less skillful portraits of James Otto Lewis). The complicated circumstances of its production have left a bibliographical stew of issues and issue points that are yet to be satisfactorily resolved" (Reese, Stamped with a National Character: Nineteenth Century American Color Plate Books, 24).

    In the winter of 1832-1833, McKenney commissioned Henry Inman "to copy the Indian portraits which hung in his former office in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Washington, D.C. The paintings were used for the superb lithographic reproductions in McKenney and Hall's famous History of the Indian Tribes of North America...In 1836, to stimulate sales of the McKenney-Hall portfolio, Inman's portraits were placed on exhibition in Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street...As McKennney wrote: 'Visitors to the Gallery will see on comparing the likeness of this Specimen No. with the portraits with what fidelity the portraits are lithographed. The portraits are by Inman, from the celebrated collection in the War Department in Washington, most of which were taken from life by [Charles Bird] King of that City'" (Horan, The McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians, page 358).

    "McKenney survived near-poverty and bitter battles with a succession of printers before his portfolio was published. It was a staggering, expensive project...The three-volume set is now one of the most valued items of Americana, usually found only in rare book rooms of big city libraries and museums. They offer the finest example of early American lithography on stone...It is fortunate that McKenney forced his dream to become a reality. In 1865, the gallery of original portraits, then housed in the Smithsonian Institution, was destroyed by fire. McKenney's portfolios are truly a landmark in American culture...The value of this magnificent work is chiefly in its faithful recording of the feature and dress of celebrated American Indians who lived and died long before the age of photography" (Horan, The McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians, page 23).

    BAL 6934. Bennett, page 79. Field 992. Howes M129 ("Originally issued in twenty parts (in nineteen); but few sets were retained in that impracticable form"). Sabin 43410a.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2010
    11th-12th Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 11,489

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 39 days left to consign to the 2020 March 4 Rare Books Signature Auction Books Signature Auction - New York !

    Learn about consigning with us

    The resulting auction of my property overwhelmed me. I want to thank Tom Slater and the Heritage team for a very satisfactory experience and profitable result with my historical consignment.
    Henry L.,
    Lexington, KY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 November 14-16 Space Exploration Auction Featuring The Armstrong Family Collection Part IV - Dallas
    2019 November 14-16 Space Exploration Auction Featuring The Armstrong Family Collection Part IV - Dallas
    REALIZED $2,583,038