CATLIN, George. North American Indians, Being Letters and Notes on their Manners, Customs, and Conditions, written during eight Years' Travel amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-1839. London, Chatto & Windus, 1876.
Two volumes, 8vo. Early 20th-century half-calf over cloth-covered boards, spines with raised bands, lettered and ornamented in gilt, top edges gilt, mottled matching endpapers; pp. viii, 264; viii, 266; complete with 180 illustrated plates in colour, and three colour maps (one folding); light wear to extremities, even light toning and minimal spotting internally, a very good and clean set.
First edition in this format of a classic of Native American ethnography. George Catlin was the first artist of stature to travel the Western Plains for the purpose of making a documentary record of the primitive Indian tribes. Between 1830 and 1836 he visited and became well acquainted with almost all the important tribes, scattered over the vast and still little-known area from the Upper Missouri and the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Mexican Territory in the far Southwest. He made the most comprehensive pictorial record we have of these people in their natural state - portraits of the most notable of their chieftains, warriors, medicine-men and women, as well as pictures of their religious and other tribal ceremonies and dances, pursuits of warfare and hunting, games, amusements, and various other activities. At the same time Catlin compiled a detailed and comprehensive written record to supplement his pictures, which covered nearly every aspect of the Indians' daily lives and ethos.
The book was first published in 1841 with line drawings after Catlin's original paintings, and went through many editions. Catlin sold the copyright to printer Henry Bohn, who upon his retirement sold it to Chatto & Windus, who based the chromolithographs in this edition on the desirable hand-colored copies produced by Bohn. The book remained in print unchanged until 1926.