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Sale 2489 Lot 57
EDWARD S. CURTIS (1868-1952)
The North American Indian. Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska. Volumes 1-20 and Folios 1-20.
Edited by Frederick Webb Hodge. Foreword by Theodore Roosevelt. Field Research conducted under the patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan.
Complete, with text Volumes 1-20, comprising 1,503 small-format photogravures on Hollande Van Gelder paper. Large 4tos, gilt-lettered full Levant morocco; with H. Blackwell's stamped binder's credit on volumes 1-14; numeric catalog notations on preliminaries, perforated Cooper Union Library stamps throughout; with the original interleaving tissue; top edge gilt.
And Supplemental Portfolios 1-20 on Hollande Van Gelder paper with 723 large-format photogravures, the sheets measuring 18 1/4x22 1/4 inches (46.4x56.5 cm.), and the reverse, perforated Cooper Union Library stamps throughout. Folios, original half Levant morocco; each with the letterpress table of contents.
NUMBER 11 OF THE 25 SETS RESERVED FOR J.P. MORGAN; VOLUME 1 SIGNED BY EDWARD S. CURTIS. WITH AN ADDITIONAL 215 ORIGINAL SETS SOLD OR GIFTED.
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1907-30
Laid in Volume I: A printed "Word of Appreciation of Mr. John Pierpont Morgan," written by Curtis, dated April 16, 1913; large 4to-sized folded sheet on vellum.
Estimate $1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Gifted by J. Pierpont Morgan, in 1908, to the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. This set is one of the earliest editions of Edward S. Curtis' magnum opus to be offered at public auction. The set offered here represents a rare example of the deluxe full Levant binding—this luxurious leather's lustrous, smooth texture and rich tones is brought into relief by the books' gleaming gilt highlights and the sculptural raised bands on the spines.
Curtis embarked on his photographic project in 1900 and secured a meeting with Morgan, a renowned bibliophile, art collector, and the richest man in the U.S., in 1906. After seeing examples of Curtis' beautiful photographs, the arts patron remarked: 'Mr. Curtis, I want to see these photographs in books— the most beautiful set of books ever published.' In exchange for Morgan's sponsorship of Curtis' field research he received 25 complete sets and 500 prints. In the course of the 25-year long book project—during which time Curtis did not receive a salary—he produced more than 40,000 glass plate negatives. It is estimated that the Morgan family invested $2.5 million in the field research and publication—the equivalent of $50 million today.
The 1,503 small-format plates in the volumes do not duplicate the 723 large-format plates in the accompanying portfolios. The Van Gelder paper's slight texture holds the ink of the photogravures—printed in deep browns, warm neutrals, and brilliant highlights—to a degree of rich dimension that is nearly unparalleled. Together these 2,200+ images articulate Curtis' immense vision and exhaustive work to fulfill his mission.
Curtis' 1907 prospectus for the set described the publication in luxurious, confident terms, highlighting the volume of plates, their size (full-page in the volumes and large-format in the portfolios), the hand-coloring, and the high-quality imported paper of 'enduring' quality. 'No pains,' he wrote, 'will be spared to produce in every detail an exceptional example of book-making.'