CATLIN, GEORGE Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of A...
New York: James Ackerman, 1845. Printed by R. Craighead. First American edition (first issue). Publisher's half red morocco over brown cloth boards, the upper cover with a large brown lettering label in gilt reading "Catlin's/North American Indian/Portfolio/Published by/James Ackerman/New-York", yellow coated endpapers. 22 1/2 x 16 inches (57.5 x 41 cm); with letterpress title, dedication leaf ("To the American Public"), 12 pp. text, and 25 finely hand-colored lithographed plates. The spine perished and with remnants of an early rebacking, the boards detached and worn with small stains and losses, the contents nearly disbound, the text with marginal foxing and small stains, about 7 plates toned, some minor marginal spots and foxing but most plates exceptionally bright and free of tears.
THE FRANK T. SIEBERT COPY OF A GREAT AMERICAN COLOR PLATE RARITY - COMPLETE WITH REMARKABLY CLEAN PLATES. The 1845 first American edition of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio was pirated from the London edition by the New York lithographer James Ackerman unbeknownst to Catlin and without his authorization. Produced and sold at a fraction of the cost of the English edition, the New York edition has long been praised for the quality of its hand-colored plates, considered "superb" by both the biographer Whitman Bennett and William Reese, who notes that "many have held that the American color is the best of any of the Catlin issues."
According to his dedication, Ackerman undertook the edition to promote the production of American works on American soil, suggesting the work of American artists to be equal to those of England and Europe. The plates here are an entirely new production, fully re-drawn on stone and competently colored, while the text exactly reprints the plate descriptions from of the London issue and adds the dedication. Brash and confident in his work, in the dedication Ackerman writes that he "ventures to challenge for his works that encouragement which has hitherto been ministered too sparingly to American productions" and further accuses Catlin ("The enthusiastic author of the London Edition of this splendid and talented work") of succumbing to the prevailing conception of the inferiority of American productions. His work, he hopes, may be "Fully equal, or greatly superior, the critical justice of the country may decide it to be" and that its "purely 'American fabric' recommends it to patronage."
The work is equally rare in commerce and institutional collections. Reese located just fifteen copies of the edition, which was also available tinted or colored and mounted on card, and just eight copies of the colored on paper issue as here. Since 1967, we track just 5 copies sold at auction, one of which has been sold twice and another ex-library copy bearing stamps. The present copy was purchased by Frank T. Siebert from Eberstadt in 1950, and bears a note reporting its purchase price in March of that year at $650.
Bennett, A Practical Guide to American Nineteenth Century Color Plate Books, 22 ("Coloring superb... This book is of the most excessive rarity and worth several times the value of the more common British printing"); Reese, Stamped with a National Character: Nineteenth Century American Color Plate Books, 25; Reese, The Production of Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, 1844-1876, unpublished paper; Howes C-243; Sabin 11532; Wagner-Camp 105a:3; Siebert II: lot 845.
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