The top lot at Swann Galleries’ auction of Important 19th & 20th Century Photographs on Monday, October 15, was a partial set of Edward S. Curtis’s magnum opus, The North American Indian, with 16 complete portfolios containing his large-format photogravures and 16 fully illustrated text volumes in handsome morocco bindings. The set, number 74 of an edition of 500, signed by Curtis, his financial backer J.P. Morgan, and Theodore Roosevelt, sold for $1,008,000 (including buyer’s premium). Curtis set out to photograph and document the “vanishing race” of the American Indian in 1906. He devoted more than 20 years to the project, which resulted in 20 text volumes and 20 illustrated portfolios.
Ultimately, Curtis produced only about half of the 500 sets of The North American Indian he intended to publish, due to an inability to find enough subscribers. Sets of this tour-de-force work are rare, and most of the extant copies are in institutional collections in the U.S. and Europe. The auction also featured a fine collection of nautical photographs, early photographic images such as a whole-plate daguerreotype, classic silver prints, and works by contemporary artists. It was the first Photography sale at Swann Galleries to break $2 million, and was the highest grossing sale in that department to date. For complete results, an illustrated auction catalogue with prices realized is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at www.swanngalleries.com.
For further information, and to consign items to forthcoming Photographs auctions, please contact Daile Kaplan at 212-254-4710, extension 21, or via e-mail at [email protected].