Rare unbound copy in the original printed wrappers
MCKENNEY, Thomas L & HALL, James
History of the Indian Tribes of North America with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs
Philadelphia, Edward C. Biddle, Frederick W. Greenough, Daniel Rice & James G. Clark, 1836-38-42-44.
3 volumes, broadsheets, in 20 individual issues (approx. 532 x 385 mm, size varies slightly); 120 original lithographed plates in original handcolouring, 1 lithogrpahed map in black and white, 17 pages with the lithographed signtaures of the subscribers at the end of the first issue; with the original printed brown wrappers.
150 000 
Bibliography of American Literature, 6934 ; Howes, M-128 ; Reese, Stamped with a national Character, 24 ; Sabin 43410a.

In stock

First edition, a very rare copy in the original printed wrappers. In this copy the titles of volumes I-II are in issue ‘A’ (they are respectively dated 1836, and 1838), title of volume III in issue ‘B’ (dated 1844), a second title for volume II (issue ‘B’) is inserted at the end of number 16 (dated 1842).


The plate ‘War Dance’ in issue ‘A’, and plate depicting chief ‘Red Jacket’ in issue ‘C’ ; the text of number 1 is present in issue ‘A’ containing the description of the plate ‘War Dance’ printed on pp.[iii]-iv before the corrections.


“One of the most costly and important ever published on the American Indians” (Field). In 1816 James Madison named Thomas McKenney superintendent of Indian trade, and in 1824 he became the first head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For years he worked tirelessly to promote Indian-American relations, championing the cause of the Indians and seeking to preserve a record of their vanishing cultures. His collaborator was Illinois jurist and author James Hall.

In 1821 James Monroe invited 17 Indian leaders to Washington, in order to demonstrate the wealth and power of the United States and thereby promote peace. At McKenney’s order, leading artists including Charles Bird King painted portraits of these men, and over the coming decade they executed scores of portraits of members of more than twenty American Indian tribes visiting Washington on official business. These portraits formed the heart of the government’s National Indian Portrait Gallery, first housed at the War Department and later transferred to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian fire of 1865 destroyed all but the handful of paintings now at the White House. As a result, these volumes form the only records of the likenesses of many of the most prominent Indian leaders of the century.


In 1830 McKenney, having been dismissed by Andrew Jackson, began to plan for the publication of the paintings and a series of biographies, often based on McKenney’s own interviews with the subjects. The magnitude of the project was overwhelming. The work’s great cost and complexity required that it be brought out over time, and several printers and lithographers took part in the project until its completion by Rice and Clark in 1844. Smaller format editions appeared in later years to make the set accessible to a wider audience”.


Some occasional chipping or small tears, else a very fine and particularly broad margined, complete copy.