EDWARD CURTIS, On A Walpi Housetop, c. 1922, Original copper plate

Edward Curtis. On A Walpi Housetop, c. 1922, Original copper plate, Volume 12. Image Size: 8.25 x 6.75″. Framed with Optium plexi Size: 18 x 16.75″”.

This plate is the vintage original copper plate used to print and create The North American Indian 1907-1930 by Edward Sheriff Curtis.
One plate exists for each of the 2227 illustrations published in the 20 volumes and 20 portfolios titled The North American Indian.

Curtis chose to illustrate his twenty-volume and twenty-portfolio masterwork, The North American Indian, with photogravures. In this process a copper plate was chemically etched to different depths in proportion to the darkness of the image of the original negative print. To create the photogravure, one copper plate was created to ink individually and run through a hand press. No multiple image plates were ever created, this is a one of kind offering.

Curtis re-edited and labored over these plates and, ultimately, they became his final vision. Ownership was transferred from Edward Curtis to John Peirpont Morgan. In 1935 The Morgan Company liquidated all assets of The North American Indian, Inc. selling nineteen complete sets of The North American Indian, several thousand individual prints, and all of the 2,200+ original copper plates to Charles Lauriat Books of Boston, Massachusetts for the sum of $1,000 plus future royalties. Lauriat finds buyers for his nineteen complete sets and then assembles fifty more, supplementing the unbound material with new prints on different paper (tweed weave) bringing the total numbers of marketed sets to 291.

The plate has been cleaned and lightly polished since it was first originally acquired from Charles Lauriat. Most of the plates did have later printings from them (restrikes), the steel plating and oil were removed with 3% nitric acid and Putz Pomade lastly applied. Now they are archivally matted and floated with silicone archival adhesive on reverse, behind UV plexi glass.