Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian
About the Digital Collection and the Original Publication
View of the 20 volumes. Promotional brochure, Charles Lauriat Company, 1935.
View of 6 of the 20 portfolios. Promotional brochure, Charles Lauriat Company, 1935.
Presenting the Work in Context
This digital collection presents the 2228 illustrations from The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis. Many of the striking images from The North American Indian have been reproduced widely, especially since the 1970s. While there is controversy about how Curtis romanticized American Indian culture, the intention of this digital collection is to present all of the published images in their entirety, with comprehensive identifying data including plate numbering, dimensions, and the original captions by Curtis. It is hoped that the viewer may get a sense of the content of the rare original volumes, in order to develop an informed understanding of Curtis and his project. For information on inclusion of potentially objectionable scenes and text, see "Sensitive Images and Text"; for views on Curtis in the context of his contemporaries and today, see the Special Presentation "Curtis in Context"; for information on processes used to capture and display the images, see "Building the Digital Collection."
The North American Indian in the Northwestern University McCormick Library of Special Collections
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 220 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.
The set owned by Northwestern was donated by J.P. Morgan, Curtis' sponsor. It consists of twenty volumes in original bindings containing text and illustrations and twenty portfolios of individual plates reproduced by the photogravure process.
Each volume measures 12 inches high, 10 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 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. Volumes 1-14 were bound by H. Blackwell, while volumes 15-20 were bound by Whitman Bennett, NY, as indicated at the top of the front free flyleaf.
There are around 75 photogravure plates in each bound volume, with image sizes averaging 5 1/2 by 7 1/2 inches; each accompanying portfolio holds around 35 loose photogravure sheets, with image sizes averaging 12 by 16 inches. In total, there are 1506 plates in the bound volumes and 722 plates in the portfolios, for a total of 2228 plates.
|Volume||Title for Volume||Plates in
|Volume 1||The Apache. The Jicarillas. The Navaho. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1907||81 images||39 images
|Volume 2||The Pima. The Papago. The Qahatika. The Mohave. The Yuma. The Maricopa. The Walapai. The Havasupai. The Apache-Mohave, or Yavapai. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1908||75 images||36 images
|Volume 3||The Teton Sioux. The Yanktonai. The Assiniboin. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1908||78 images||36 images
Pl. 76-110, 119
|Volume 4||The Apsaroke, or Crows. The Hidatsa. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1909||74 images||36 images
|Volume 5||The Mandan. The Arikara. The Atsina. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1909||74 images||36 images
|Volume 6||The Piegan. The Cheyenne. The Arapaho. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911||75 images||36 images
|Volume 7||The Yakima. The Klickitat. Salishan tribes of the interior. The Kutenai. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911||75 images||36 images
|Volume 8||The Nez Perces. Wallawalla. Umatilla. Cayuse. The Chinookan tribes. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911||77 images||37 images
|Volume 9||The Salishan tribes of the coast. The Chimakum and the Quilliute. The Willapa. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1913||75 images||36 images
|Volume 10||The Kwakiutl. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1915||74 images||36 images
|Volume 11||The Nootka. The Haida. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1916||76 images||36 images
|Volume 12||The Hopi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1922||75 images||36 images
|Volume 13||The Hupa. The Yurok. The Karok. The Wiyot. Tolowa and Tututni. The Shasta. The Achomawi. The Klamath. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1924||75 images||36 images
|Volume 14||The Kato. The Wailaki. The Yuki. The Pomo. The Wintun. The Maidu. The Miwok. The Yokuts. /Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1924||74 images||36 images
|Volume 15||Southern California Shoshoneans. The Diegueños. Plateau Shoshoneans. The Washo. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926||75 images||36 images
|Volume 16||The Tiwa. The Keres. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926||75 images||36 images
|Volume 17||The Tewa. The Zuñi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926||74 images||36 images
|Volume 18||The Chipewyan. The Western woods Cree. The Sarsi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1928||75 images||36 images
|Volume 19||The Indians of Oklahoma. The Wichita. The southern Cheyenne. The Oto. The Comanche. The Peyote cult. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1930||76 images||36 images
|Volume 20||The Alaskan Eskimo. The Nunivak. The Eskimo of Hooper Bay. The Eskimo of King Island. The Eskimo of Little Diomede Island. The Eskimo of Cape Prince of Wales. The Kotzebue Eskimo. The Noatak. The Kobuk. The Selawik. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1930||78 images||35 images