North American Indians by George Catlin, Two Volumes, First Grant Edition in Original Dust Jackets, 1926

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. Edinburgh: John Grant, 1926. First Grant edition thus. Two volumes. Octavo. In original pictorial maroon cloth boards, stamped in black and gilt, with top edges gilt, and original rare dust-jackets. Presented in  a new archival maroon cloth slipcase. 

Presented is the highly coveted, 1926 Grant edition of George Catlin’s epic North American Indians. Published in Edinburgh by John Grant in 1926, this is the first Grant edition thus illustrated with stunning color plates and is considered by many to be one of the finest sets published since the original publication in 1841. This two volume set is presented in its original pictorial maroon cloth boards, with both the upper covers and the spine titled and elaborately decorated in gilt and black embossing. The original dust jackets, rarely seen, are still intact and included with the set. Both volumes are housed in a new archival maroon cloth slipcase.

In 1830, George Catlin, a young lawyer turned portraitist, set out for the West from his home in Pennsylvania. His aim was to record on canvas  North American tribes and their way of life. His eight years among the major tribes of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains resulted in his “Indian Gallery,” an enormous collection of artifacts, more than five hundred paintings, and his famous journals. 

Catlin went on a lecture tour throughout the east coast with his “Indian Gallery” and petitioned the U.S. government  to purchase his collection and maintain it intact for public viewing. When Congress turned down his request, Catlin took his collection on tour in Europe, hoping to raise interest and foreign financial support for his work.

Despite strong attendance, Caitlin found it difficult to earn a living through just his lectures and exhibitions. So he turned to the project of publishing a book, based on his letters from his western journeys. Since he intended his book to be profusely illustrated with steel engravings, Catlin had to create over 300 illustrations based on his original paintings. This was a considerable undertaking, even with two hired assistants. 

Finally in September of 1841 the book was published. The two-volume Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indian included Catlin’s narrative of his travels interspersed with portraits, drawings of Indian artifacts, and views of western landscapes and fauna. The book is divided into letters written by Catlin, rather than chapters. Some of the text came from a series of previous articles he wrote for the New York Commercial Advertiser from 1832 to 1837. 

“The history and the customs of such a people,” Catlin wrote, “preserved by pictorial illustrations, are themes worthy of the lifetime of one man, and nothing short of the loss of my life, shall prevent me from becoming their historian” (Hassrick, 15).

This 1926 edition is celebrated because it is the first edition published by John Grant to include color plates. The two volumes boast 320 color illustrations on 180 plates, all carefully engraved from the author’s original paintings, as well as a color frontispiece in each volume, three maps one of which is a folding map. The cream colored dust jackets for these two volumes, which are so often lost or damaged, are still intact and presented with the books.


Very good condition. Two volumes. Octavo. In original pictorial maroon cloth boards, stamped in intricate black and in gilt. Top edges gilt, other edges untrimmed. Clean inside, with only light foxing to endpapers and edges. Illustrated with a color frontispiece in each volume, one folding map in color, and 180 additional color plates. In original rare dust-jackets, worn, with some soiling and losses. Conservation to dust jackets and new Mylar, for protection. Presented in a new archival maroon cloth slipcase. 

Book Dimensions: Volume 1: 10 1/4" H x 7" W x 2" D, Volume 2: 10 1/4" H x 7" W x 2 1/4" D, Slipcase dimensions: 10 5/8" H x 7" W x 4 3/4" D. 

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