"North American Indian," Vol. 1 by Edward S. Curtis
Appraised Value: $8,000 - $10,000 (1997)
$15,000 - $20,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 7
Appraisal Video: (2:53)
Books & Manuscripts
Books and Manuscripts Dept., Senior Vice President
APPRAISER: When you brought this book up, you said it was your treasure. Why did you say that? What can you tell us about it?
GUEST: Well, I know that it's very old. It's from 1907. I know that it was limited to 500 editions. In fact, it says here, "This edition is limited to 500 sets, of which this is number 455."
APPRAISER: But it was such an expensive undertaking, 500 sets, in fact, were not produced, so it's a very scarce work. It's volume one only. You don't have-- it says here on the title page The North American Indian by Edward S. Curtis, in 20 volumes. But you have only the first.
GUEST: Only the first volume.
APPRAISER: Curtis, as you probably know, spent almost 30 years doing this fantastic photographic depiction of the Native nations of the United States. He documented over 80 tribes, took 40,000 photographs, of which some 2,200 were printed in this massive work. 20 volumes this size and then 20 large portfolios of photogravures. It's particularly nice that you have the first volume of the 20 volumes, because Curtis has signed it and dated it in 1907.
APPRAISER: The publication continued until 1930. This volume covers the Apache and the Navajo tribes, and it's filled with wonderful photogravures such as this of the Apache girl. Curtis began this undertaking in 1898 and it wasn't until 1930 that it was completed. And by then, many of the tribes that he had photographed were... essentially disappeared.
APPRAISER: His view of the Native Americans has come under some controversial attack lately. Some people feel that the photographs were romanticized or that they were staged, but still, as an artistic and ethnographic expedition and achievement, I don't think it's ever been equaled.
APPRAISER: You called it your treasure. Did you have any sense of the monetary value of what it might be?
GUEST: Not really. I know that they were expensive books when they were published. I know that maybe 20 years ago, a set sold for $80,000. I have no idea what they're worth now.
APPRAISER: Of course, this is, in a way, one-fortieth of a set. Nonetheless, they have gone up in value considerably and for this single volume, which is in its original binding as it was issued, I would certainly not hesitate to estimate it at $8,000 to $10,000 for an auction sale.
APPRAISER: And the complete set today would be closer to $400,000 to $500,000.
APPRAISER: So it is a treasure and I'm glad you brought it in.
GUEST: Thank you.
APPRAISER: Thank you.
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