Complete Copy of Curtis’s The North American Indian Heads to Auction

Dorros Family Collection features Americana and ornithological highlights
Courtesy of Hindman Auctions

George Catlin, Wild Horses at Play, 1844

On November 9, Hindman Auctions will offer Fine Books from the Dorros Family Collection, with significant works in the fields of Americana, ornithology, travel and exploration, literature, and color plate books.

A major collection highlight is a complete copy of Edward S. Curtis’s monumental ethnographic work, The North American Indian (1907–1930). One of the most ambitious—and most expensive—publication efforts ever undertaken, the complete edition contains forty volumes, including 723 photogravures in sepia. The extraordinarily beautiful and haunting sepia photos have become iconic images of the American West.

“It is a privilege to handle such a monumental work,” said Gretchen Hause, Hindman’s Vice President and Director of Books & Manuscripts. “The North American Indian is among the most important literary projects of the twentieth century and complete copies in any condition are rare on the market.”

J. P. Morgan, a financial backer for Curtis’s documentary project, originally commissioned 500 sets; however only about half were ever completed. On offer at the Hindman sale is copy number eighty-eight, signed by Curtis, and originally sold to the public library in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The estimate for the Curtis is $700,000–$1,000,000.

The Dorros family auction also includes George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio (1875), with hand-colored plates mounted on card. The 1875 edition is sought after by collectors in part because of the six additional lithographic plates included in the edition that were not part of Catlin’s portfolio when it was first issued in 1844.

The Dorros Family Collection also contains ornithology highlights, including Audubon’s second folio of Birds of America (1860) and John Gould’s classic work on hummingbirds, A Monograph of the Trochilidae… (1849-1861).

The second folio edition of Birds of America began as an attempt by Audubon’s son, John Woodhouse Audubon, to reproduce the book at a lower price by utilizing chromolithographic reproductions of the original plates. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, production was interrupted, and the financial backing fell through. Only one-third of the work, consisting of 150 plates, was completed and published. The included plates, however, contain many of the best-known images from Audubon’s work. The second folio edition also has the distinction of being the most ambitious color plate book attempted in the nineteenth century.

Gould’s beautiful book on hummingbirds stands out for his use of a special metallic coloring technique to capture the birds’ iridescent plumage. Most of the birds featured in the book came from Gould’s own extensive collection of specimens that were exhibited at the Regent’s Park Zoological Gardens in 1851.

The Dorros Family Collection also contains several Melville works, including a first American edition of Omoo in the very rare original wrappers. Also included are thirty-four works illustrated by Arthur Rackham in fine condition, including the rarest of all the Rackham-illustrated titles, Poor Cecco.

Fine Books from the Dorros Family Collection will be offered on November 9, at 10am, with bidding available online as well as in person at Hindman’s location in Chicago. 

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