Coblenz: J. Hoelscher, 1839.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Near Fine. Item #003708
Two parts in two volumes. Coblenz: J. Hoelscher, 1839-41. 4to (348 x 268 mm). xvi, 653 ; xxii,  , 687  pp. Bound with the text and protected by tissue paper are 33 aquatint plates ("vignettes") after Karl Bodmer (numbered vig. I- vig. XXXIII except for plate XXVI =unnumbered), heightened with gum arabic and with the blind-stamp "C Bodmer / Direct", a total of 52 woodcut text illustrations; vol. I with a large folding engraved map partially coloured in outline bound before title; vol. II with 12 pp. list of subscribers, a lithographed plate of Fort Clark bound after p. 70, one small lithographed key plate (to plate XXI) bound after p. 686 and a folding meteorological table bound at end, errata leaf in each vol. Uniformly bound in contemporary German half mottled calf and marbled paper over boards, each spine with gilt decoration and gilt-lettered labels, red-sprinkled edges (minor wear to extremities and rubbing to boards, corners slightly bumped, spines scratched). The text exceptionally bright and crisp, the preliminary pages with list of subscribers and title as well as the appendix in vol. II somewhat browned, the vignette plates mostly with minor even yellowing and light offsetting of text mostly on plate versos, occasional minor finger-soiling, the large folding map backed by thin linen and somewhat creased. Provenance: Chateau Tetschen library of the counts of Thun-Hohenstein (red coat of arms stamp to verso of titles). ----
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE OF THE FINEST WORK ON AMERICAN INDIAN LIFE AND THE AMERICAN FRONTIER, which includes the first truly accurate depictions of the Plains Indians, the result of an epic journey which took place at a time when the mass migration of settlers and pioneers was about to alter irrevocably the unspoiled West. Prince Maximilian's text was first issued in German in 20 parts from 1838 through 1841, with an abridged English translation being issued in London by Ackermann in 1843.
Karl Bodmer (1809-1893) was engaged by Prince Maximilian (already famed for his earlier explorations to Brazil) to record of his travels among the Indian people of North America from 1832 to 1834, at a time when the Plains and the Rockies were still virtually unknown. His efforts show great versatility and technical virtuosity and give us a uniquely thorough, accomplished and detailed picture of a previously little understood (and soon to vanish) way of life. The most important part of their travels started from St. Louis, whence they proceeded up the treacherous Missouri along the line of forts established by the American Fur Company. At Bellevue they encountered their first Indians, then went on to make contact with the Sioux tribe, learning of and recording their little known ceremonial dances, their powerful pride and dignity. Transferring from the Yellow Stone to another steamer, the Assiniboine, they continued to Fort Clark, studying there the Mandan, Mintari and Crow tribes, then the Cree and Assiniboin tribes at Fort Union, the main base of the American Fur Company. On a necessarily much smaller vessel they journeyed through the extraordinary geological scenery of that section of the Missouri to Fort Mackenzie in Montana, establishing over a month there a cautious friendship with the fearsome Blackfoot tribe. From this, the westernmost point reached, it was considered too dangerous to continue and the return journey downstream began. The winter brought its own difficulties and discomforts, but Bodmer was still able to execute numerous studies of villages, dances, and especially, the people, who were often intrigued and delighted by his work. The portraits are particularly notable for their capturing of individual personalities, as well as forming, together with Prince Maximilian's written studies, the primary accounts of what became virtually lost cultures. The 1837 smallpox epidemic killed more than half the Blackfeet and almost all the Mandans. "The value of Maximilian's text has been often overlooked, not least because the later English and French translations devalued it. Field, in particular, excoriates as a 'wiseacre' the translator of the English edition who chose to eliminate the extensive Indian vocabularies found in the original German edition; in the sale of Field's library, his copy of the English edition of Maximilian's Travels was accompanied by a set of the German text "to cover this defect".
According to the list of subscribers in volume II, the work (including the atlas) was available in five issues: I. on regular (French) paper with all plates uncolored, II. on India paper with all plates uncolored, III. on regular paper with 20 colored plates, IV. on India paper with 20 colored plates, and finally V. on Imperial velin paper" with all plates printed in color and hand-colored. The present copy is not only from this last and most desirable category, but it must be from one of the earliest issues: according the Ruud, all vignette plates are of the first state except for plates 10 and 12 which are second state (see B. K. Ruud, pp. 238-328). The 33 vignette plates were often reprinted on large sheets and bound with the atlas plates, but as they were designed to accompany the 33 text chapters and as they were first printed on small sheets, they are most properly found, as in the present set, bound with the text.
Included in our set is the rarely found temperature table and the key-plate to atlas pl. XXI. "Dr. H. M. Evans, who made an extensive study of the Maximilian, says that, only about 1 copy in 10 possesses the little key plate to Tab. XXII [recte XXI]" and thinks this plate was an "after-thought". . . Perhaps this was true also of the temperature curves for Ft. Clark" (Wagner-Camp 76).
The vignette plates were engraved by Frédéric Martens, Charles Vogel, Lucas Weber, John Outhwaite, Friedrich Salaté, Johann Hürlimann, Sigismond Himely, Charles Beyer, Amable-Nicolas Fournier, Pierre Joseph Tavernier, Narcisse-Edmond-Joseph Desmadryl, Damien Manceau, Talbot, Charles Michel Geoffroy, Jean-Eugène Ducasse & Doherty and Pierre Eugène Aubert.
An amazing variety of techniques were combined for the vignette plates alone: plates 1, 6, 7, 14, 31 and 33 are aquatint & etching; plates 8, 9, 11, 13, 17 and 26 aquatint, etching & roulette; plates 15 and 29 aquatint, etching & stipple; plates 20 and 21 aquatint, etching, roulette & engraving; plate 12 aquatint, etching, stipple & roulette; plate 18 aquatint only; plate 27 aquatint, mezzotint, etching & roulette; plate 16 aquatint, mezzotint, etching & stipple; plates 10, 24 and 25 aquatint, roulette, etching & engraving; plates 23 and 32 engraving & etching; plate 28 engraving, etching & roulette; plates 19 and 30 engraving, etching & stipple; and plate 22 mezzotint, etching, stipple & roulette. All plates in our set were finished in hand-color. (Ruud, pp. 238-328).
The author mentions the former owner of our set, Leopold Graf von Thun-Hohenstein (1811-1888) of Chateau Tetschen, in his list of subscribers. For financial reasons, most of the library with its 90,000 volumes was sold and dispersed when Franz Anton von Thun and his family moved into their smaller castle in Eulau in 1930. They took just a few thousand of volumes with them. Books from this library can now be found in the Czech National Museum or in the libraries of Harvard, Oxford or Yale.
Literature and references: Sabin 47014; Howes M 443a; Storm 4648; Meynen 3387; Wagner-Kamp, Plains and the Rockies 76; Abbey, Travel Anm. 615; Hiler p. 898; B.K. Ruud, Karl Bodmer's North American Prints, 2004.
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