The Most Comprehensive 19th Century Account of the History and Contemporary Status of Native American Tribes


(Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co. [vols. I-IV] or J. B. Lippincott & Co. [vols. V-VI], 1851, 1851, 1851, 1854, 1855, 1857). 325 x 248 mm. (12 3/4 x 9 3/4"). With half titles. Six volumes bound in 12. FIRST EDITIONS of all volumes.

Handsome 20th century dark brown half morocco over crimson cloth by Riviere & Son (stamp-signed on verso on front free endpaper), raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with central fleuron, gilt titling, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt (very small and expert repairs to three joints). WITH SIX STEEL-ENGRAVED ADDITIONAL TITLES, one steel-engraved portrait of Schoolcraft, one folding letterpress table, and 329 ENGRAVED OR LITHOGRAPHED PLATES, PLANS, AND MAPS after Seth Eastman and others (including the "Map of Kansas River"), some tinted, many hand colored or chromolithographed. All with (apparently original) tissue guards. Sabin 77849; Howes S-183 "b"; Field, 1379; Bennett, p. 95; Servies 3691. ◆Four-inch thin crack to one joint of first volume and both joints of 12th volume, a half dozen cloth sides with minor evidence of silverfish activity, but the bindings otherwise quite attractive, their leather showing considerable luster. Minor foxing and offsetting here and there, especially to plate margins (but this never serious), other trivial imperfections, but in most ways a very fine set internally--quite clean, fresh, and as bright as its slightly off-white paper allows, with virtually no signs of use, the original tissue guards appearing almost entirely undisturbed.

Handsomely bound and with all volumes present in the first edition, this is the most comprehensive 19th century account of the history and contemporary status of Native American tribes. As such, it is an essential work of American ethnography, its "vast mass of really valuable material," in Field's words, performing "a very important service for Indian history in collecting and preserving an immense amount of historical data." Henry Schoolcraft (1793-1864) travelled west in 1820 as a mineralogist on the first American expedition exploring the Great Lakes region, and began life there as an Indian agent in Michigan two years later. His career as an ethnologist had its roots in his marriage to Jane Johnson, whose mother was Ojibwa. According to ANB, with the aid of his wife and her family, "Schoolcraft embarked on a pioneer study of Ojibwa language and oral literature. After publishing individual ethnological and literary papers, he presented the first collection of Indian myths and legends for American readers in a popular two-volume work, 'Algic Researches' (1839)," a source for Longfellow's "Song of Hiawatha." After a career as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Michigan, Schoolcraft was appointed by the Secretary of War to "collect and digest such statistics and materials as may illustrate the history, present condition, and future prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States," in accordance with a May 1847 act of Congress. Schoolcraft sent government-sanctioned questionnaires to current and former employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, fellow ethnologists who had studied American Indian tribes, traders who had travelled and worked among the Indians, and "teachers and missionaries to the aborigines." And he edited and compiled the responses into this vast survey published over a six-year period. Howes says that the work collected and preserved "vocabularies of Indian languages, grammatical analyses, legends of various tribes, biographies of chiefs and warriors, narratives of captivities, histories of Indian wars, emigrations, and theories of their origin." In the introduction to the 1951 Index to this work produced by the Bureau of American Ethnology, director Matthew Stirling noted, "this opus will always remain a mine of source material. At the time of its compilation, aboriginal culture in the United States, although rapidly disintegrating, was still a living, vital reality." The text's value is much enhanced by the meticulous illustrations of Seth Eastman (1808-75), whose work as a topographical artist for the U.S. Army had instilled a sharp eye for detail and an ability to produce images of near-photographic quality. According to Field, "a very large number of beautiful steel engravings, representative of some phase of Indian life and customs, are contained in the work, but the most valuable of its illustrations are the drawings of weapons, domestic utensils, instruments of gaming and amusement, sorcery and medicine, objects of worship, their sculpture, paintings, and fortifications, pictograph writing, dwellings, and every form of antiquities." Sets of this work are always available, but they are almost invariably beset by disfiguring foxing and disagreeable bindings. And it almost never appears bound in 12 (attractive) volumes, as here.

Price: $25,000.00