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“A seemingly idyllic, rarely seen American past comes to life like a fairy tale — some land before time, before film, before death.”

Patek Philippe: The International Magazine used images from the Karl Bodmer aquatints held in the rare book collections for an article in its July 2017 issue. The digital reproductions, especially crafted by Rare Books assistant Scott Beadles for this issue, illustrate “Home of the Braves,” by Elizabeth Daley.

“In the 1830s, when the American West was on the verge of momentous change, a German prince set off to explore the country and its people. He took with him a Swiss artist, whose intricate depictions are the last record [before photography] of a disappearing world.” Swiss-born artist Karl Bodmer accompanied Prince Maximilian zu Wied on his two-year journey across the American frontier, reaching as far west as Fort McKenzie, Montana.


The Rare Books Department holds a set of the eighty-one aquatints produced after watercolors by Bodmer for zu Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, first published in German in 1839 and later translated into English and French. Rare Books holds first editions of the German and of the English translation.

You can look at the digitized collection here:

Karl Bodmer Aquatints

In this digital format, you can also look at the first German and English editions of zu Wied’s Travels. Better than that, however, you can visit the Special Collections Reading Room and browse the lush, exquisitely detailed aquatints in their original state.

Hardly a romantic fairy tale, the history of indigenous peoples in the Americas is often tragic (they were not saved by a Prince) but always rich in its antiquity and its currency. Bodmer’s aquatints and zu Wied’s Travels are only part of a story worth exploring to your heart’s content in Special Collections.