“NOTHING SHORT OF THE LOSS OF MY LIFE SHALL PREVENT ME FROM BECOMING THEIR HISTORIAN”: CATLIN’S NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS
CATLIN, George. North American Indians: Being Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions, Written During Eight Years’ Travel Amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America. Edinburgh: John Grant, 1926. Two volumes. Large octavo, original red cloth, gilt and black cover and spine illustrations.
Later edition of Catlin’s monumental history, with 309 chromo-lithographs on 180 plates and three color-printed maps (one folding).
A young lawyer turned portraitist, Catlin set out for the West from his home in Pennsylvania in 1830 to record on canvas North American Indians 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 as well as more than four hundred paintings, including portraits and scenes of tribal life. His North American Indians, first published with uncolored plates in 1841, is “one of the most original, authentic and popular works on the subject” (Sabin 11536). “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).