German naturalist-explorer Prince Maximilian of Wied set out in 1832 to document the geography and ethnography of the largely unexplored American West. He employed a twenty-four-year-old Swiss painter and draftsman, Karl Bodmer, as the artist of the expedition. They started their two-year trek in Boston, traveling westward along the Ohio and Missouri Rivers, making it as far west as Fort McKenzie in present-day Montana. Along the way, they encountered scenes of an unspoiled West--lush, primeval riverbanks and landscapes teeming with herds of buffalo and big horn sheep. They also stayed for a time with groups of Mandans and Blackfeet, enabling Bodmer to paint numerous detailed portraits of Indians of the upper Missouri. Maximilian and Bodmer completed their expedition and returned to Europe in 1834.

Bodmer's training as a draftsman was apparent in his work. His Native American portraits are considered the most accurate portraits completed in situ. Not only did he meticulously document ethnographic details such as clothing, ornamentation, and body markings, he also captured the sitter's unique personality.

Travels in the Interior of North America is one of the most lavishly illustrated works of American travel. The atlas accompanying the travel narrative contains eighty-one hand-colored aquatints based on Bodmer's watercolors. Unfortunately, the project was a financial debacle, and Bodmer never gained the fortune he thought this expedition would bring him. 

Catlin, George. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America, 1845.

Catlin, George. Catlin's North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America. From Drawings and Notes of the Author, Made during Eight Years' Travel amongst Forty-Eight of the Wildest and Most Remote Tribes of Savages in North America. New York: James Ackerman, 1845.

Early in his career, artist and author George Catlin dreamed of becoming the first American painter to capture the vanishing existence of the American Plains Indians. Beginning in 1832, Catlin made a number of trips to the largely unexplored Plains region and completed more than 500 paintings and sketches based on his observations. In 1837, he first displayed his paintings, which he called "Gallery of Indians," in New York City. Over the next several years, the exhibition traveled to Washington, Boston, London, and Paris. In an effort to capitalize on its success, he published North American Indian Portfolio in London in 1844. The following year, James Ackerman published the American edition of this work, on display. Due to its limited press run, this edition is more rare than the London edition.

Even before the United States took possession of the Louisiana Territory in early 1804, Thomas Jefferson was planning an expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson charged Meriwether Lewis with collecting a wealth of valuable scientific and geographical data, including observations of flora, fauna, minerals, Indian languages, and celestial and geographic conditions. William Clark charted the expeditionary routes, prepared maps, and logged the daily events during the long journey. This work was undertaken with great zeal and the raw data gathered survived intact. Still, by the time of Lewis's death in 1809, little progress had been made in turning the journals into a published account--much to Jefferson's dismay. William Clark undertook the task and, with the assistance of Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen, the official journals were finally published in 1814.

Shown here is one of the few copies known to exist in original boards. Many book collectors had their books rebound, often in leather, and did not preserve the original front and back covers. These covers advertising other books being sold at the time are now of interest to bibliographers for the information they provide about nineteenth-century reading tastes and bookselling.

Gass, Patrick. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, 1810.

Gass, Patrick. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, under the Command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the Army of the United States, from the Mouth of the River Missouri through the Interior Parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the Years 1804, 1805 and 1806 . . . .  Philadelphia: Printed for Matthew Carey, 1810.

Patrick Gass proved to be one of the most able members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Hired as head carpenter, his duties also included those of boatsman, hunter, and horseman. At the request of Meriwether Lewis, he was also one of seven journalists assigned to keep a written record during the historic expedition. Gass's journal was first published in Pittsburgh in 1807, one year after the completion of the journey and seven years before the publication of the official account of Lewis and Clark. Shown here is the second edition, which was the first illustrated account of the expedition.

Inga, Athanasius. West-Indische Spieghel, Waer inne men sien kan, alle de Eylanden, 1624.

Inga, Athanasius. West-Indische Spieghel, Waer inne men sien kan, alle de Eylanden, Provintien, Lantschappen, het machtige Ryck van Mexico, en 't Gout en silver-rycke Landt van Peru. 'Tsampt de Coursen, Havenen, Klippen, Koopmanschappen, etc. soo wel inde Noort als in de Zuyt-zee. Als mede hoe die vande Spanjaerden eerst ge invadeert syn. Amsterdam: By Broer Iansz. ende Iacob Pietersz. Wachter, 1624.