Description

    Thomas L. McKenney & 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: D. Rice & A. N. Hart, 1854), three volumes, second octavo edition, 333, 290, 392 pages, 120 hand-colored portrait plates with tissue guards, full blindstamped leather with gilt titles on banded spines, all edges gilt, 4to (7.5" x 10.25"). The overall condition of this present set is very good. Volumes One and Two have minor scuffs and shelf wear with some various weaknesses to the hinges. The text blocks are tight and the pages unusually bright and generally free from foxing. Volume Three has the front board totally separated and a nearly separated back board although with no loss, otherwise it is also free from major internal defects.

    From the preface: "The folio edition...has been pronounced by the learned and polished both of Europe and America, to be one of the most valuable and interesting productions of the present age...This universal appeal of the folio edition of the work, has induced the publishers of the present edition to alter the size to royal octavo, and thus place it within reach of the thousands, who, with taste and learning equal to the patrons of the large edition, have no less capacity to appreciate its worth and beauties." The "worth and beauty" of this masterwork cannot be overstated. The History of the Indian Tribes of North America has long been known for the faithful and accurate portrayal of these dignified and majestic early Native American leaders. McKenney, as the U.S. Superintendent of Indian Trade, laid the foundation for this ambitious and historic project in 1821 by commissioning artist Charles Bird King to paint portraits of various Indian delegates as they visited Washington, D.C. including Sequoyah, Red Jacket, Major Ridge, Cornplanter, and Osceola. These portraits formed the basis of the War Department's Indian Gallery. McKenney spent most of the 1820s as Superintendent of Indian Affairs and was a strong advocate of the Indian, concerned that the world of the Native Americans would vanish without being documented. After Andrew Jackson dismissed him from his government post in 1830, McKenney began work on this extensive chronicle of the people who had originally occupied this land. His ambition was to publish beautifully hand-colored lithographs based upon the paintings by King, James Otto Lewis, and others along with biographies of the subject, and an essay on the history of Native Americans. Between 1836 and 1844, the three volumes were issued in a folio format that were, by necessity, expensive and beyond the means of most people, leading to the first "royal octavo" edition in 1848-1850. This present second octavo edition was published in 1854, and our research shows that it may be the rarest of all the octavos based on auction records.

    Most of the original paintings reproduced in these volumes were placed in the Smithsonian and subsequently destroyed in a tragic 1865 fire. Their appearances in these volumes are the only record we have of the likenesses of many of the prominent Indian leaders of the nineteenth century, especially those who did not live into the age of photography. The authors certainly succeeded in their goal of preserving an accurate visual record of a rapidly disappearing culture. Our nation is fortunate that the project was completed, and Heritage is proud to offer not only this fine octavo edition but also a fabulous original folio set as Lot 25759. Either edition would be at home in the finest personal or institutional collection, giving many generations to come the privilege of viewing and reading this important tome.


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    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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