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American Indian Photos

This photo collection presents over 1500 photographs from The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis.

The North American Indian (1907-1930), by Edward S. Curtis, was published in a limited edition and sold by subscription. The lavishly illustrated volumes were printed on the finest paper and bound in expensive leather, making the price prohibitive for all but the most avid collectors and libraries. Subscriptions sold for about $3,000 in 1907; the price rose to about $4,200 by 1924. Although the plan was to sell 500 sets, it appears that Curtis secured only about 227 subscriptions over the course of the project. In 1935 the assets of the project were liquidated, and the remaining materials were sold to the Charles Lauriat Company, a rare book dealer in Boston. Lauriat acquired nineteen unsold sets of The North American Indian, thousands of individual prints, sheets of unbound paper, and the handmade copper photogravure plates. They lay forgotten in the bookstore's basement until their rediscovery in the 1970s, which marked the revival of interest in Curtis' haunting images of American Indians.

Each volume measures 12 3/4 inches high, 10 1/4 inches wide and about 3 2/5 inches thick. Each is bound in half leather, that is, the spine and the four corners of the front and back covers are covered in a high quality brown Levant morocco leather. The covers themselves are laminated binders board; the central panel on each board is covered with a heavy tan cloth. The text block within each volume measures 11 1/2 inches high, 9 1/2 inches wide and 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick; the text itself occupies an area 8 1/8 inches high by 5 inches wide on each page. Each volume has in gold foil stamping on the spine a simple line decoration with the set's title at the top, the author, volume number in roman numerals, tribe(s) in the volume and the publication date of the volume at the foot of the spine. The entire edition was bound by H. Blackwell, whose mark appears at the top of the front free end paper.

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