"History of the Indian Tribes of North America" Book
Appraised Value: $70,000 - $90,000
IMAGE: 1 of 3
Appraisal Video: (3:38)
Books & Manuscripts
Director, Fine Books and Manuscripts
Bonhams & Butterfields, LA
GUEST: I've got these three volumes of the McKinney and Hall Indians. A dear, dear friend of mine bought these in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1964. And the people that were selling them, it was like a garage sale. And they wanted $100 a book, and she talked them down, and bought all three of them for $250. So I saw them a number of years ago and I always loved them, loved them, loved them. And kept after her, after her. So finally she said she would sell them to me. This was in 1994. But she wanted $1,000 a volume. And I said, "What the heck?" So I went and I got the money and I bought them from her.
APPRAISER: Did you know anything about this book when you bought it?
GUEST: When I bought it, I didn't know a thing, nothing. I just thought it was very good looking, the size, the color, the printing everything. I just thought they were wonderful. I had to have them.
APPRAISER: Well, you are right. This is a very good-looking book. This is an important book for two reasons. It's an important example of American bookmaking, American printmaking, in the tradition of the big Audubon folios. I mean, this is 19th-century American lithography at its best. But it's also an important piece of American history. This book is put together by two men, Thomas McKinney and James Hall. And Thomas McKinney worked for the Department of War in the 1830s, and part of his job was to negotiate treaties with the Native Americans who would come to Washington to sign treaties. And he thought up the idea of having the representatives, the chiefs, the tribal leaders, pose for portraits in oil while they were in Washington. So he put together this tremendous collection of paintings of Native Americans. And it was really one of the first and best records of what those individuals looked like, what their costumes were like, what they brought with them to Washington to negotiate the treaties. Outstanding. He actually got so involved in curating this collection of portraits that he lost his job with the Department of War. So then he got involved in publishing, and he took those paintings and he had these gorgeous lithographs made-- and this is a beautiful example of it here-- and published these books by subscription. It came out in three volumes. You have all three volumes here. And there are 120 illustrations of Native American leaders of various tribes of the time. What makes this book especially rare and valuable is that all of those original paintings were donated to the Smithsonian, and in 1865, many were destroyed in a fire. All we have left of those records are these lithographs in this three-volume set. It's been reprinted many, many times, but you've got the first edition. You've got it in its original form. This is the original cloth cover for the book, which means it's not been rebound or cut down. So they're just gorgeous. The plates are clean. There's hardly any damage, foxing inside it. It's just a beautiful, beautiful set. This is a popular book. It comes up at auction, and I can tell you the last couple of times a set this nice sold at auction, sold for about $70,000.
GUEST: Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: So I would put an auction estimate on this three-volume set of $70,000 to $90,000.
GUEST: Oh, goodness, thank you. I love it.
APPRAISER: Thank you for bringing it in.
GUEST: I did good.
APPRAISER: You did great.
GUEST: That's wonderful. That's good. Very good. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
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