Contact: Barbara Bryant 202-707-9197

February 10, 1994

The Library of Congress Publishes the North American Indian Portfolios

The Library of Congress, in association with Abbeville Press, has just published The North American Indian Portfolios. This 272-page volume, part of Abbeville's well-known Tiny Folios series, contains some of the earliest depictions of Native Americans rendered by white artists. The book features more than 200 illustrations from three early published works: Prince Maximilian Alexander Philip von Wied-Neuwied's Travels to the Interior of North America Between 1832 and 1834 (Karl Bodmer, artist), George Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio, and Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall's History of the Indian Tribes of North America (Charles Bird King, principal artist.)

These three contemporaneous books (published between 1835 and 1841) provide valuable early sociological, historical and ethnological studies of the American Indian and helped to change Americans' views of the native peoples. Traditionally, many white settlers and Europeans had viewed Native Americans either as vicious savages who stood in the way of progress or as noble savages uncorrupted by modern civilization. Bodmer, Catlin, and King--among others--helped to dispel these extreme stereotypes and captured the Indians' humanity, personalities, customs, and daily lives.

The Library of Congress's Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds copies of these three early classics. In his introduction to The North American Indian Portfolios, James Gilreath, the division's American history specialist, explains the significance of the three works, including their portrayal of Native American culture imperiled by the encroachment of an alien Western culture. Bodmer, Catlin, McKenney, and Hall believe that they shared a unique--and perhaps the last--opportunity to display signs of a culture in its purest state.

The North American Indian Portfolios is available in the Library of Congress Sales Shop ($10.95 per copy) or by mail:

The Library of Congress
Publishing Office
Box J
Washington, DC 20540-8620
($10.95 plus $3.50 for postage and handling).

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PR 94-023
ISSN 0731-3527

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