Photographer Edward S. Curtis’s groundbreaking work The North American Indian was first published 100 years ago. None other than J.P. Morgan was a principal patron of the series, and only 214 complete sets were published during Curtis’s involvement. At 20 volumes and over 2,200 photographs, the series captured as much current Native American life as possible. The original series is, of course, highly collectable (a set sold for $1.44 million in 2012).
It’s a big deal. And I’m thrilled to finally be able to share the story of the historic republication of The North American Indian. Here at Bookmobile, we couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of this.
It all began for me in 2012, when Bookmobile was exhibiting at the annual meeting of the American Alliance of Museums in Minneapolis. It was an excellent conference, but the best part was when I met Christopher Cardozo. We were happy to discover we were both Minneapolis locals, and I was impressed to learn that his gallery, Cardozo Fine Art, has the most comprehensive collection of Edward S. Curtis’s original photography. Curtis (1868–1952) was an American photographer and ethnologist who focused on the American West and Native Americans.
Ethan Flatten, development director of Little Earth of United Tribes, says of Curtis,
We have discovered that one of the primary keys to healing is reconnecting with our culture, heritage and identity. For us, real change must start with knowing who we are and where we come from. The work of Edward Curtis remains of singular importance in this regard. It is through his artistry and his collaboration with Native people that we are allowed to see who we really are. His unique gifts and perspective gives us insight into our own identities and allows us to witness and reclaim pride in being Native.
I can hardly do his career and influence justice, so if you are not familiar with Curtis, I recommend starting with the biography on the Cardozo Fine Art website (any Google search will bring up many more resources.)
Printing the Fine Art Photography Books
In 2012, Christopher Cardozo talked with me about the republication of The North American Indian, with the aim of making Curtis’s photography more accessible. It’s Cardozo’s mission to promote, exhibit, publish, and study Curtis’s work. (Cardozo himself has a great backstory too, and I recommend reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minneapolis man finds ‘soul’s purpose’ in celebrating ‘North American Indian’ photographer.)
In 2014, we started to work with Cardozo and his team in earnest to republish the series. Cardozo says,
I have enjoyed working with Bookmobile for four years now. Cardozo Fine Art is publishing two extremely complex editions of The North American Indian by Edward Curtis. Each set recreates all 2,5000,000 words and 2,234 photographs in over 20 individual volumes. After an extensive search we chose to work with Bookmobile because of their capabilities to handle the demands and complexities of such large projects as well as their ability to create the consistently high-quality product we wanted. The Reference Edition is entirely printed digitally at Bookmobile and it has required hundreds of decisions and refinements. Throughout the entire process the team at Bookmobile has maintained the exceptional quality standards we required. Our clients have been extremely happy with the results, and one described his set as “his dream come true.” We have been told this may be the most complex republication in North American history and we are delighted to have Bookmobile as a critical partner.
The Limited Edition
Cardozo Fine Art first put out a limited edition of just 75 sets of The North American Indian, inspired by the original layout and materials. This set sells for $33,500 and is a collector’s edition. Only four sets remain! For this run, Bookmobile printed the text pages only; the photos were printed on Cardozo’s Epson photographic printers, the pages top edges gilded and bound in bonded leather and cloth, and they are at the original sizes: 9-3/4″ x 12-3/4″ for the text volumes, and 12-3/4″ x 15-3/8″ for the portfolio volumes.
The Complete Reference Edition
The complete reference edition retails for $6,500 and the slightly smaller trim sizes, printed hardcover cases that simulate the original leather and cloth, and archival, acid-free paper, make it a good fit for a library or scholar’s collection. The trim size of the portfolio is outside our standard (up to 12″ x 12″) at 10-1/2″ x 13-1/2″. The texts are at 9-1/8″ x 12″. The hardcover is a printed case, and because the dimensions were too large for our in-house digital printers, we outsourced the printing of the cases to a local vendor we trusted.
The interiors printed 4-color on our 80-lb. vanilla, and we perfect bound the interiors with PUR before casing them in, with Rainbow Paragon end sheets and white headbands. A few of the volumes also include fold-out inserts, another feature Bookmobile can accommodate for fine art photography books.
Once books were completed and shrink wrapped, they were sent next door to Itasca Books for warehousing and fulfillment.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty excited about the books—I have been waiting for six years to write this post! I love to blog about the fine art photography books we print at Bookmobile, and the historic republication of Edward S. Curtis’s The North American Indian may be the pinnacle.
Why Bookmobile for Fine Art Photography Books
Our short-run print quality is excellent, our pricing is affordable, and we offer many options. Customize your paperbacks with a square trim size, translucent vellum insert, foil stamping on a paperback cover, and more. Browse our Gallery to see the full breadth of what we offer!
Bookmobile can perfect-bind as few as 16 pages and we offer PUR binding for a durable bind for coated interior stocks. And with a minimum run quantity of just 25 copies, artists can print short runs and order reprints as needed—which means no worries about storing inventory or cash flow complications.