CATLIN, George (1796-1872). Catlin’s Notes of Eight Years’ Travels and Residence in Europe, with his North American Indian Collection… New-York: Burgess, Stringer & Co., 1848.

$ 625.00

2 volumes. 8vo., (8 7/8 x 5 ¾ inches). Half titles (very occasional spotting). Fine lithographed frontispiece in volume I (a bit loose); 23 lithographed plates. Original publisher’s brown cloth, both covers blind-ruled, the smooth spine blind-ruled in five compartments, gilt-lettered in two; volume II mostly unopened (head and foot of spines chipped).

Provenance: Contemporary manuscript ownership inscription of Jonathan S. Lawrence to front pastedown of volume I, dated March 8, 1861; presented to Samuel Lawrence Jr. on front pastedown in volume II.

First American edition, first published in London the same year. A prospectus for Catlin’s Indian Gallery, with which he toured America and London, desperately trying to find a buyer for the collection: “Artists before him had painted Indian dignitaries visiting in Washington, D.C., or had portrayed them in council with American officials in the field. Catlin's claim to originality turned on the nature and extent of his coverage. Besides more than 300 portraits of men and women from some fifty tribes, he displayed 200 paintings of Indians on their own turf, going about their everyday activities. His catalogs and advertising emphasized these "beautiful Landscapes of the Prairies of the ‘Far West’ – Views of Indian villages – Dances, Sports and Amusements” (New York Morning Herald, 27 Nov. 1837). He rightfully insisted that he was the first artist to offer the world a representative picture of Indian life based on personal observation. Though he described his paintings in his 1837 catalog as “rather as fac similes of what he has seen, than as finished works of art” (p. 36), his best portraits (Black Hawk, Buffalo Bull, Red Bear, Mint, Mountain of Rocks, Sky-se-ro-ka, Osceola, and Little Wolf, for example) show people, not romantic stereotypes, and the ethnographic value of his work has only appreciated with the passage of time. “Catlin formed his Indian Gallery without government patronage, but he turned to Congress in May 1838 confident it would reward his enterprise by purchasing his collection. Frustrated in this hope, he nevertheless became a regular supplicant, petitioning Congress with an urgency that mounted with his debts. Certain he would find a more receptive audience in Europe, he moved to England in November 1839. After touring his gallery throughout Great Britain, he took his collection in April 1845 to Paris, where he was entertained by King Louis-Philippe. But fame never translated into fortune for Catlin, and in 1848, fleeing ahead of a revolution that swept Louis-Philippe off the throne, he returned to London with his three daughters; his wife and only son had died during his stay in France. His gallery was no longer a novelty in England, and though a book recounting his experiences abroad (Notes of Eight Years’ Travels and Residence in Europe, with His North American Indian Collection [1848]), lectures, and American emigration schemes kept his name before the British public, Catlin continued to slide toward financial ruin” (Brian W. Dippie for DNB).