Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian

About the Digital Collection and the Original Publication

Caption Below
View of the 20 volumes. Promotional brochure, Charles Lauriat Company, 1935.

Caption Below
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.

Lists of plates in portfoliosOutline of Contents: Images from The North American Indian by Edward S. CurtisLists of plates in volumes

Volume Title for Volume Plates in
Plates in
Volume 1 The Apache. The Jicarillas. The Navaho. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1907 81 images 39 images
Pl. 1-39
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
Pl. 40-75
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
Pl. 111-147
Volume 5 The Mandan. The Arikara. The Atsina. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1909 74 images 36 images
Pl. 148-183
Volume 6 The Piegan. The Cheyenne. The Arapaho. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911 75 images 36 images
Pl. 184-219
Volume 7 The Yakima. The Klickitat. Salishan tribes of the interior. The Kutenai. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911 75 images 36 images
Pl. 220-255
Volume 8 The Nez Perces. Wallawalla. Umatilla. Cayuse. The Chinookan tribes. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1911 77 images 37 images
Pl. 256-292
Volume 9 The Salishan tribes of the coast. The Chimakum and the Quilliute. The Willapa. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1913 75 images 36 images
Pl. 293-328
Volume 10 The Kwakiutl. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1915 74 images 36 images
Pl. 329-364
Volume 11 The Nootka. The Haida. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1916 76 images 36 images
Pl. 365-400
Volume 12 The Hopi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1922 75 images 36 images
Pl. 400*-435
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
Pl. 436-471
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
Pl. 472-507
Volume 15 Southern California Shoshoneans. The Diegueños. Plateau Shoshoneans. The Washo. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926 75 images 36 images
Pl. 508-543
Volume 16 The Tiwa. The Keres. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926 75 images 36 images
Pl. 544-579
Volume 17 The Tewa. The Zuñi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1926 74 images 36 images
Pl. 580-615
Volume 18 The Chipewyan. The Western woods Cree. The Sarsi. / Seattle : E.S. Curtis, 1928 75 images 36 images
Pl. 616-651
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
Pl. 652-687
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
Pl. 688-722

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