Karl Bodmer's North American Prints


Karl Bodmer's North American Prints

Edited by Brandon K. Ruud
Annotations by Marsha V. Gallagher
Essays by Ron Tyler and Brandon K. Ruud
Preface by J. Brooks Joyner

383 pages
431 illustrations (mostly color); 11.5 x 11.5"


March 2004


$150.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In 1832–34 German scientist Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied traveled the interior regions of North America to document what he regarded as vanishing cultures. Accompanying him was the twenty-two-year-old Swiss artist Karl Bodmer (1809–93), whom Maximilian employed to create a “faithful and vivid image” of America and its people.

Upon their return to Europe, Maximilian began the difficult task of turning his field notes and journals into a readable account of his journey, while Bodmer concentrated on the equally complicated process of translating his drawings and watercolors into engravings to accompany the text. During the nearly ten-year effort it took to create Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832–34, many of the eighty-one images underwent significant changes: Bodmer and his team of some thirty engravers altered landscapes and portraits based on Maximilian’s input, modified imprecise inscriptions, and reengraved plates for future printings.

Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints is the first book to systematically and comprehensively document and interpret these changes to the prints. Each version—or state—is cataloged, discussed, and linked to one of the five distinct editions. Other issues, including coloring, paper, and dates, are examined. The two essays, eighty-one entries, and six appendixes contained in this volume elucidate all aspects of the project, with special attention to the number of legitimate and illegitimate reproductions the popular North American prints engendered and to Bodmer’s post-expedition output as a printmaker.

Karl Bodmer's North American prints helped shape the European view of Native Americans and the United States in the nineteenth century, and were valued for research and aesthetic purposes in the twentieth. However, the engravings are perhaps less well known today than the magnificent watercolors on which they were based; these have become famous in recent decades through publications such as Karl Bodmer's America (Joslyn & Nebraska 1984). This companion volume will focus attention once again on one of the most important bodies of Western American imagery ever produced.

Author Bio

Brandon K. Ruud is curator of Transnational American Art at the Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Marsha V. Gallagher is the chief curator and Holland Curator of the Durham Center for Western Studies at Joslyn Art Museum.
Ron Tyler is the director of the Texas State Historical Association and a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.
J. Brooks Joyner is the director of Joslyn Art Museum.


"Bodmer . . . wandered with the prince [Maximilian] for 13 months up the Missouri River, and the drawings and watercolors he made of what he saw . . . are the visual equivalent of Lewis and Clark's journals. As Ron Tyler points out in his introductory essay to the meticulously illustrated Karl Bodmer's North American Prints, edited by Brandon K. Ruud, Bodmer arrived at a time when Europeans, besotted with fantasies of James Fenimore Cooper, had no idea what Indians really looked like. This volume documents in rich detail the popular diffusion—by engravings and lithographs—of Bodmer's original designs."—New York Times Book Review, Holiday Gift Books List

"[T]hese prints . . . are unmatched in their meticulous and sympathetic rendering of a magnificent yet altered culture."—Bookforum

"Chronicle[s] Maximilian and Bodmer's excellent adventure in a suitably lavish volume rich in fascinating history and spectacular illustrations."—Booklist

"Karl Bodmer's North American Prints is a monumental documentation and appreciation of one of the last great topographic/ethnographic projects in the 19th century to be accomplished with the engraving process. . . . The great accomplishment of this volume is that it compiles most of the extant versions of the images from collections around the world."—Bloomsbury Review

“Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints is a work of outstanding scholarship. In examining thoroughly the work of an artist whose brief sojourn in the tran-Mississippi West resulted in the creation of a unique pictorial documentary, it is destined to become a reference of first importance to serious collectors of Bodmer prints, as well as to Western Art historians, ethnologists, and all who value authentic testimonials to the nineteenth-century American experience.—David C. Hunt, Great Plains Quarterly

Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints contains an excellent introduction by Joslyn director J. Brooks Joyner and two essays…. This magnificent book is a worthy companion to the previously published volume, Karl Bodmer’s America…. This present effort is recommended for any serious art history student or aficionado of the American West or the American Indian."—James A Hanson, Nebraska History

“A fascinating study, especially when accompanied by so many of Bodmer’s wonderful prints…. More than an inch and a half thick and measuring 12 by 12 inches, the book is simply huge – and the quality of content and production matches its size."—Nebraska Life

“This sumptuous book…is a triumph of academic publishing…. Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints is an exemplary work of scholarship. It is a credit to the authors, the publisher, and the museum that sponsored it.”—Brian W. Dippie, Montana The Magazine of Western History

“In any book on art, the quality of the images requires comment. This book is superior. Not only are there excellent reproductions of Bodmer’s works, but also details of images that show variations in Bodmer’s personal chops…. Any serious student of Bodmer, exploration of the West, or art history should acquire this book. It provides excellent contextual perspective, insight into the creation of this amazing series of images and a useful guide of identifying Bodmer’s work as opposed to copies made by others.”—Robert B. Pickering, Journal of the West

“Thought it measures eleven and one-half inches square, is nearly two inches thick, and weighs more than five pounds, its real heft is in its contents. The examinations within weigh into aspects of western history, art history, and the analysis of both…. The authors take on the challenge of discerning why and to what extent the images were transformed, and what the changes indicate about the people and the time.”—Suzzane Kelley, Chronicles of Oklahoma

“The first comprehensive study of Bodmer’s atlas prints (never before given the attention they deserve), which were originally created for Prince Maximillian’s Travels in the Interior of North America, 1832-1834.”—Brandon K. Ruud, True West

“Scholars and enthusiasts of western art will recall the fine book, Karl Bodmer’s America…. But equally significant is the new companion book, Karl Bodmer’s North American Prints…. The new book is as stunning as the first and nearly identical in format. A distinguished set, they comprise the ultimate reference for Bodmer’s historic contribution to American western art.”—Joni Kinsey, Annals of Iowa


2005 Joan Paterson Kerr Book Award, sponsored by the Western History Association, winner

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