DescriptionThomas 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 Edward C. Biddle, 1836 (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, being "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," (Reese). Volume I title-page BAL state A; Volume II title-page BAL state B; Volume III title-page state A.
Three large folio volumes (20 x 14 inches; 510 x 355 mm.). [2, title], [2, contents], -4, -202, , [1, blank], -204; [2, title], [2, contents], -237, [1, blank]; [2, title], [2, contents], -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 A (with the caption "War Dance of the Sauks and Foxes, " the imprint of Biddle, and the statement "Lehman & Duval, Lithrs," dated 1834); The "Red Jacket" plate is in BAL state C (with the caption "Red-Jacket. / Seneca War Chief" and the imprint of E. C. Biddle, imprint of Lehman & Duval, Lithrs. present, dated 1834). 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 between 1834 and 1837 (with the imprint of E. C. Biddle); the plates in Volume II are dated 1837 (with the imprint of E. C. Biddle, frontis only), 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 (with the imprint of Daniel Rice and James G. Clark).
Contemporary dark reddish-brown half-morocco over pebbled cloth-covered heavy boards, skillfully rebacked to style with original spines laid down; spines in seven compartments, lettered or decoratively stamped in gilt, ruled in gilt and black. Marbled endpapers with dark red binders tape reinforcing each hinge. Bindings only lightly rubbed; board edges worn, particularly at corners where some boards are exposed; corners bumped; light wear to spine gilt. Front free endpaper of first volume detached but present. Most plates affected by some degree of offsetting from facing text, though generally they're still rather bright; light foxing and only occasional minor soiling, usually relegated to the margins, throughout; faint, narrow tidemark to lower margin of first half of second volume. Overall, a beautiful copy with vivid color.
Includes all nineteen front wrappers for the original nineteen parts, and a single rear wrapper with "Agents for the Indian Biography" list and binding instructions.
The present set has a distinguished provenance, having belonged to Dr. Herman J. Viola, Curator Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution and former director of the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives. Viola has written several books on Native American history, a number of them dealing with McKenney and Hall specifically. Included are three reference books on Native American History by Herman J. Viola, including Thomas L. McKenney, Architect of America's Early Indian Policy: 1816-1830.
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. (Reese, Stamped with a National Character: Nineteenth Century American Color Plate Books, 24). (Horan, The McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians, page 23, 358).
"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).
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