The North American Indian was one of the most ambitious and expensive publication projects of its kind, taking more than two decades to complete.
By 1907 when he began his project, the great tribes that once spread across the North American continent had dwindled to small enclaves after centuries of colonisation and westward expansion.
Funded in part by JP Morgan, Curtis set out to document as much of Native American culture and history as he could. He explained that “the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost”.
All told, The North American Indian comprises 40 volumes: 20 text volumes featuring 1511 illustrations, 1505 photogravures, four maps and two diagrams, along with 20 supplemental folio volumes featuring some 723 full-sheet photogravures in sepia. Many have become familiar images.
Morgan originally commissioned 500 copies of the set, although little more than half (an estimated 272) were ever completed.
The set offered in Hindman’s November auction is No 88 and was originally sold to the Free Public Library of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
It has a $700,000-1m estimate.
Other highlights from the Dorros library include a very fine copy of the deluxe issue of George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio, featuring hand-coloured plates and a second double elephant folio edition, the so-called ‘Bien edition’, of John James Audubon’s Birds of America.
The firm’s mixed-vendor sale of sale of Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts, including Americana, follows on November 10.
Christie’s sold the ornithological library assembled by cardiologist Gerald Dorros in 2017.