McKenney & Hall Print Variations


Thomas McKenney & James Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America probably has the most complex publishing history of any book ever published in the United States. From the 1829 inception of the project until the issuing of the completed first edition in 1844, the history of this publication was a complex dance of changing publishers, lithographers, printers and artists [1].

The History includes many pages of text, but at its heart are its magnificent lithographs, which include three frontispiece scenes and 117 portraits of Native Americans [2]. With the changes in publishers and lithographers—not to mention an edition produced in London—most of the portraits were created in a number of variants. Some of the variants involve a simple correction of the name, for instance “Els-Kwau-Ta-Waw” changed to “Tens-Kwau-Ta-Waw.” Other variations seem to simply involve wear to a plate, where a signature or attribution disappeared as the stone was reprinted again and again. However, most of the variations involve some change in the printed information related to the production of the print, for instance in the date or name of the publisher.

This is a table listing all the different variants of all the McKenney & Hall prints, at least as known at this time [3]. There is no particular intrinsic, artistic nor value difference between the different variants, except perhaps for the very few examples made before 1833. Still, a list of all the variants is worth having both to fully document this important American publication and to give some insight to its incredibly complex publishing history.

[1] See Christopher W Lane, “A History of McKenney and Hall’s History of the Indian Tribes of North America,” Imprint, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 2-15.

[2] There was another portrait, of J-Aw-Beance, which was produced early on in the project, but which was never included in the completed work, probably because no biographical information could be found about this individual.

[3] New variants do continue to turn up, for I just found two previously unrecorded examples in my preparation for publishing the variant listing on the web site. We would be grateful to be notified if someone finds any variant not listed in this table, so it can be updated.

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