Letters and Notes on the Manners, customs and Conditions of the North American Indians, Written During Eight Year's Travel Amongst the Wildest Tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-39

Author: Catlin, George
Year: 1841
Edition: First edition
Publisher: Catlin, George
Category: Americas


Two volumes in one. London, publ. by the author, 1841. Engraved frontispiece and 310 engraved plates including 3 maps, of which one folding, depicting North American Indians, their artifacts and arts. Contemporary half calf over cloth, red label with gilt lettering, red edges, a small dampstain in the bottom margin of only a very few pages (for the largest one please see picture no. 11), one plate dampstained in the top margin as well, a few pages fingered, but overall the contents in an excellent condition with almost none of the usual browning and foxing, resulting in an unusual clean and crisp copy. Edge of one map frayed, 2 bookplates on inner frontboard, top of frontboard lightly sunfaded.

Up till the early 1890's (!) editions appeared with the original title page and the date of 1841, besides all those other editions that clearly mention their respective publishers. The last one published with the original title page and the plates in black and white, probably being the edition by W. & A.K. Johnston, that appeared in 1891 or 1892.
Our copy is a rare original 1st edition, printed by Tosswill & Myers, complete with the errata slip bound in (not tipped in) before the frontispiece, which is often lacking and only was inserted in this edition, the second edition (same year) and the 1st American edition; in all later editions, regardless whether they have the same title page or not, the mistakes, the principal one being "The false prophet Frederick....." at page 104 of Vol. 1 (see picture #5), have been corrected. Moreover this edition is the only edition published by George Catlin himself.

Harold McCracken; George Catlin and the Old Frontier (The Dial Press, 1959): "This is Catlin's most important work. There are numerous reprints and subsequent editions. Some subsequent editions bear the original title page and date 1841. To establish a correct and definitive bibliography is extremely difficult if not impossible."

 Since this first edition, published by the author, was issued in 1841, alone in 1841 at least 3 other 1st thus editions appeared, amongst which the 1st American and the 1st English edition and many, many other editions appeared up till WW II. For 100 years this was considered one of the most important works on North American Indians (of course together with Henry Schoolcraft's "Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States") and subsequent editions still are being issued up to this very day.

The plates in our copy differ slightly from the list as given by Howes: first there is an unnumbered plate, the next plate is nr. 3. Extra missing are the plates numbered 64 and 248, but on the other hand the plates numbered 113 and 114 are present. Occasionally other copies containing these two plates appear on the market. In 1992 a copy was auctioned by Swann (# 1591-072) with their comment:
"Evidently an early issue, as plates 113/114 are present, whereas Howes is quite explicit about their absence."

An unusual crisp and clean copy of a book which is very scarce in its true first edition. This edition not in Sabin who, amongst other editions, only lists the later first American edition under nr. 11536. Howes C241.

Click on a picture to enlarge.