NEW YORK, NY.-
The top lot in today's auction of Fine Photographs & Photobooks was also the top lot ever sold at Swann Galleries
. A set of Edward S. Curtis's magnum opus, The North American Indian, complete with 20 text volumes and 20 folios, brought $1.44 million dollars--more than any other single lot sold at Swann in its 70 year history. In 1952, Swann conducted the first auction devoted to photobooks in the United States.
Daile Kaplan, Swann Vice President and Director of Photographs & Photobooks, said, "We were very pleased to have sold this iconic work by a major 20th century artist. The price reflects the rarity and beauty of this American masterpiece and the interest in photobooks as an artform."
Prices for other early photographs were also strong. A multi-panel panorama image of lower Manhattan from 1876, showing a portion of the Brooklyn Bridge still under construction, brought $96,000 and an album of cyanotypes of Colorado sold for $56,000.
Consigned by well known bookman John King, this set (number 113/500), appears to be the only complete version containing a treasure trove of photogravures with Curtiss signature. This rare and unique suite includes 722 large-format photogravures on Japan tissue, with 111 signed plates all of the images in Folios I, IV and V. The accompanying 20 text volumes contain an additional 1,505 photogravures, 4 maps and 2 diagrams, and were produced by Lauriat from Curtis original copper plates.
Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) was a 20-century American artist and photographer known for his images of Native-American tribes west of the Mississippi. Complete with 20 folios and 20 text volumes, The North American Indian is one of the most stunning and ambitious photographically-illustrated books ever produced.
Documenting the vanishing race of Native Americans, Curtis anticipated the project would take 15 years to complete. This legendary project was initially endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt, who introduced Curtis to his first patron J.P. Morgan, the legendary bibliophile and financier. Morgan directed Curtis to make the handsomest ever produced." He advanced Curtis $75,000 for five years, after which his son invested an additional $300,000 to facilitate its production.
Detroit native John King has been a book seller for more than four decades. This set, which contains splendid rare photographic folio plates, many with Curtis signature and accompanying handsome text volumes, parallels the importance of the original Audobon, King said, and deserves to be shared with collectors who can appreciate its scarcity, artistry and the recording of a great peoples.