The North American Indian : being a series of volumes picturing and describing the Indians of the United States, and Alaska / written, illustrated, and published by Edward S. Curtis ; edited by Frederick Webb Hodge ; foreward by Theodore Roosevelt ; field research conducted under the patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan.

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Accession number: 
PML 16351-56, etc.
Curtis, Edward S., 1868-1952.
[Seattle, Wash.] : E.S. Curtis ; [Cambridge, U.S.A. : The University Press], 1907-1930.
20 v. : fronts (v. 20 col.), plates, ports. ; (4to)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan and J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1907-1930.

Curtis's photogravure portraits of Native Americans are an extraordinary artistic achievement despite whatever cultural preconceptions may have skewed his views of a "Vanishing Race." Pierpont Morgan and his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr., helped to pay for the field research and production of The North American Indian, contributing around $400,000, about a third of the total project cost. Their support encouraged Curtis to increase the size and scope of his work and to sell it by subscription, although the price was beyond the means of most libraries and collectors. The Morgan set has the distinction of being copy number 1.


Vols. 9-20 have title: The North American Indian: being a series of volumes picturing and describing the Indians of the United States, the dominion of Canada, and Alaska ...
Vols. 6-20 printed at the Plimpton press, Norwood, Mass.
Original photogravures produced in Norwood, Mass. by Plimpton Press and in Cambridge, Mass. by Suffolk Engraving from 1903-1925.
"This edition is limited to five hundred sets."
This set is number 1.
Vols. 3-20 contain vocabularies.
The 20 portfolios consist of numbered plates. Number 150 incorrectly number 159. Two different plates are numbered 400.

20 volume set: brown morocco, gilt; portfolios: brown cloth.
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Portfolio title: North American Indian, list of large plates supplementing v. 1-20


In 1906 Curtis approached J.P. Morgan to request financial assistance for his project. Morgan agreed to pay him a total of $75,000, or $15,000 a year for five years. Curtis' masterwork, The North American Indian, he and Morgan decided, would be a set of 20 volumes of ethnographic text illustrated with high quality photoengravings taken from his glass plate negatives. Each of these volumes would be accompanied by a portfolio of large size images, all sumptuously bound in Moroccan leather. The papers used for printing would also be of the best quality: a Dutch etching stock by Van Gelder, a Japanese vellum, and for the most discerning subscribers, a translucent Japanese tissue paper. To fund publication, Curtis would sell subscriptions at approximately $3,000 per set, with a total of 500 sets to be published. President Roosevelt agreed to write the foreword for the project. In return for his investment, Morgan would receive 25 sets of The North American Indian and 500 original photographs.
"Curtis spent the best part of his life-nearly thirty years-documenting what he considered to be the traditional way of life for Indians living in the trans-Mississippi West. He took more than 40,000 photographs, collected more than 350 traditional Indian tales, and made more than 10,000 sound recordings of Indian speeches and music His magnum opus was The North American Indian." (Pritzker, Edward S. Curtis, 6).