This morning we learned Swann Galleries is offering a rare signed version of Edward S. Curtis’s “The North American Indian” in its Oct. 4, 2012 sale of Fine Photographs & Photobooks. The quality and scarcity of the set could make this the first lot ever sold by Swann to bring more than $1 million. Presently, the lot has a pre-sale estimate of $1.25 to $1.75 million.
Consigned by well known bookman John King, this set (number 113/500), appears to be the only complete version containing a treasure trove of photogravures with Curtis’s signature. The rare and unique suite includes 722 large-format photogravures on Japan tissue, with 111 signed plates – all of the images in Folios I, IV and V. The accompanying 20 text volumes contain an additional 1,505 photogravures, 4 maps and 2 diagrams, and were produced by Lauriat from Curtis’ original copper plates.
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) was a 20-century American artist and photographer known for his images of Native-American tribes west of the Mississippi. Complete with 20 folios and 20 text volumes, The North American Indian is one of the most stunning and ambitious photographically-illustrated books ever produced.
Documenting the “vanishing race” of Native Americans, Curtis anticipated the project would take 15 years to complete. The project was initially endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who introduced Curtis to his first patron and legendary bibliophile and financier, J.P. Morgan. Morgan directed Curtis to make “the handsomest ever produced.” He advanced Curtis $75,000 for five years, after which his son invested an additional $300,000 to facilitate its production.
Consignor and Detroit native John King has been a book seller for more than 40 years. “This set, which contains splendid rare photographic folio plates, many with Curtis’ signature and accompanying handsome text volumes, parallels the importance of the original Audobon,” King tells Swann, “and deserves to be shared with collectors who can appreciate its scarcity, artistry and the recording of a great peoples.”
For more information, visit Swann’s.
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Antique Trader Book Collector’s Price Guide
By Richard Russell
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