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THE ILLUSTRATING TRAVELER

George Catlin painting a Chief

Valor and Endurance
Part II of III


George Catlin. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. London, 1844.

Plate 6: Buffalo Chase

"Plate 6: Buffalo Chase." (Colored lithograph)

Plate 23: An Indian Ball-Play

"Plate 23: An Indian Ball-Play" (Colored lithograph)

George Catlin's plate book has become one of the most famous of American illustrated books. Catlin's original intention was to produce four portfolios of twenty-five plates each, disseminating his images more widely than he could by displaying his oil paintings, and turning a profit in the bargain. The subject matter of the first portfolio, "sports and amusements" was probably chosen to appeal to the tastes of the English gentlemen who were the primary prospective purchasers of Catlin's book; it offered the same sort of exotic big game hunting as Orme's Foreign Field Sports did for Asia. Unfortunately, as with so many of his schemes, Catlin made no money from the project and no further portfolios ever appeared.


George Catlin. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. New York, 1845.

Plate 5: Buffalo Hunt, Chase

"Plate 5: Buffalo Hunt, Chase" (Colored lithograph)

The American edition of the Indian Portfolio was produced by the New York lithographer James Ackerman entirely separately from the English versions. In his preface Ackerman proudly stated that he had demonstrated American craftsmanship superior to English at a lower cost. Despite his admirable efforts the book sold very poorly, as its absence from contemporary American collections and its notable rarity today attests.


George Catlin. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. New York, 1865 ?

Attacking a grizzly

"Indians Attacking the Grizzly Bear, the most Savage and Ferocious Animal of North America." (Colored lithograph)

Some time after Ackerman published his edition, probably after the Civil War, the famous firm of Currier and Ives took over Ackerman's lithographic stones - evidently missing one - and produced the rarest of all forms of the North American Indian Portfolio, shown here.


George Catlin. Die Indianier Nord Amerika's.... Brussels, 1848.

Taming a horse

[Taming Wild Horses] (Chromolithograph)

This hybrid publication combines text taken from Catlin's Letters and Notes with illustrations drawn from that book and from the North American Indian Portfolio, often rearranged by an unknown hand. In this plate showing the Comanche method of taming horses, a section of a plate from the portfolio has been isolated and the image reversed by the copyist. It is not known if Catlin played a part in the publishing of this version of his work or whether it was pirated.
Additional Catlin Plates


Valor and Endurance, Part III

An Analytic Eye
The Sublime and the Picturesque
The Spirit of Place
Encountering Native Americans
Customs of the Country

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Send comments to George Miles, William Roberston Coe Curator of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University


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