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    Edward Sheriff Curtis (American, 1868-1952)
    The North American Indian, Portfolio 12 (Complete with 36 works), 1906-1921
    Photogravure printed on Tweedweave paper, 1966
    11-1/2 x 15-1/2 inches (29.2 x 39.4 cm), or the reverse and slightly smaller
    Each with title, date, plate number, and letterpress credit in the margin.

    Photogravures and list of plates are housed in folding portfolio case with cloth ties.

    Printed by Deli Sacilotto in the Emiliano Sorini studio, 1966-1967;
    Purchased by the current owner from Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1972.


    The story of Edward Curtis' The North American Indian is well known. Curtis started on the most ambitious photographic publishing project of the 20th century with the hope of completing 500 sets, each comprising 723 large-format photogravures in 20 portfolios and 20 text volumes with 1,506 small-format photogravures. Starting in 1900 and working until 1930, the project destroyed his business, family and finally his health. In the end about 300 sets were printed with only approximately 272 finished and sold.

    What happened after Curtis went bankrupt is less well known. In 1935 the remaining photogravures and copper printing plates were sold to Charles Lauriat, a Boston rare book dealer. The inventory included 17 complete sets of portfolios 13-20. In 1966 Emiliano Sorini was approached about printing 17 sets of portfolio 1-12 from the original plates in Lauriat's possession to complete the sets. This later printing of the first 12 portfolios was done on a paper with a woven texture and is known by collectors as the "Tweedweave" edition.

    It was previously thought that these 17 sets of the first 12 portfolios were printed by Emiliano Sorini himself but a transcript from the Robert Rauschenberg Oral History Project, The Reminiscences of Deli Sacilotto, Columbia Center for Oral History Research, Columbia University, 2015 reveals that it was his friend Deli Sacilotto who did the actual printing.

    "He was doing only etchings and he said-well someone came to him to print Edward [Sheriff] Curtis's North American Indian photographs from the original plates. He said, 'I can't do it,' and he knew I needed a job so he talked to me. He said, 'If you're willing to do this, you can use my etching press in the evenings and during the weekend when I'm not using it and print these.' I said yes, I needed the job at that point. I said, 'Great, I'll do it.'

    ...that was one of the largest projects of photogravure, I think, that was done in this country when it happened. Of course with 1930 the project ended because of the Depression, '29, '30. All of the books hadn't sold as well as was intended and so essentially it dispersed the project. The Morgan Library [and Museum, New York] had some of the first two volumes and they ended up in a bookstore in Boston. But in 1966 I borrowed the studio of Emiliano Sorini, used his etching press, and worked on these for a year and a half.

    Essentially it saved my life financially at that point. But what happened was, all the time I was printing these and some of them had never been printed since the time of Curtis and they were in sleeves and they were covered with beeswax, which I had to melt and get off before I could even start printing. A lot of it had Curtis's writing on the jacket before they had the engraving done at the bottom and it was really fascinating. But all this time I was saying, god, not only are these images beautiful, but this technique is fantastic ...I found there was a place in New Jersey that had done photogravure by hand. There were two old guys ready to retire. They were changing over and I offered the one who knew a lot about what they did to come to my studio and see what I was doing and he gave me a lot of helpful hints in terms of how to do it, how to put the tissue on, how to let it dry, and so on."

    These portfolios were sold to the current owner by the Johnson Reprint Corporation in 1972 and represented as original portfolios. Why these were sold separately and not used by Charles Lauriat to complete a portfolio set is unknown. The Johnson Reprint Corp. was working on their own academic facsimile of The North American Indian which was published in 1976.

    To our knowledge this is the first time that complete "Tweedweave" portfolios from the limited printing of 17 sets have been offered at auction.

    More information about Edward Sheriff Curtis, also known as Curtis, Edward Sheriff, Curtis, Edward, Curtis, Edward S., Edward S. Curtis, .

    Condition Report*: Sheet size 17 3/4 x 22 inches. Photogravures in overall excellent condition. Some age darkening to the edges of the list of plates.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2019
    4th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 672

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