13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Board book
`The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore' by W. Ben Hunt is a true `golden oldie', first published over 50 year ago, in 1954 and published for at least for the next 15 years, as I have a 19th printing, with new cover art, but identical content, dated 1968, as well as my original 1954 edition. Looking back at it and its `competitor', `The Book of Indian Crafts and Costumes' by Bernard S. Mason, I'm struck by how durable both books are, being as good a guide to their subjects as they were to me and all my fellow Boy Scouts in the late 1950's. And, it is such a great thing to have both volumes. While they cover the identical subject, and have a strong similarity in style, one really must have both to be fully informed about the subject.
Of course, if you really only have room or funds for one, Hunt's book is far more accessible, albeit just a bit less deep. Hunt's book is entirely in color, with drawn rather than photographed illustrations. And, when you are dealing with a handicraft, drawings are far more effective, since the artist can highlight the essentials of the pictured technique and avoid accidental distractions such as shadows and, with aging photography, grainy images. Mason's pics were grainy even when they were new, and they have not improved with age.
As a dedicated practitioner of Indian lore for over three years, in connection with an active Indian dancing performing troupe, connected with (catch the pun) a Boy Scout Troop 7 and then Explorer Post 7, I couldn't avoid Hunt's book, as it seemed to have an almost official status as a manual on the subject in the Boy Scout world. One only encountered Mason's book if, as I was, both an Indian lore enthusiast AND something of a bibliophile.
One fact which strikes me now, upon returning to Hunt's book after 50 years, is that the interest in American Indian costumes is probably not an automatic thing. The American Indian decorative traditions are probably, in fact, more elaborate, more colorful, and easier to reproduce than the ethnic costumes of practically any other primitive or folk culture. You don't need a sewing machine (although it helps) and you don't need the skills to work with metal (although store-bought ax heads purchased from the European settlers certainly helps too).
This is one area where the differences between Hunt and Mason are most pronounced. Hunt basically works with 20th century manufactured raw materials such as beads, thread, cloth, and needles. Mason does the same, but goes one step further in showing you how the original Indians actually did it themselves. As someone who wove more than my share of tens of thousands of Czechoslovakian manufactured seed beads on a modern metal replica of a beading loom, I have no interest in becoming even more `authentic' by making my own beads, tanning my own rawhide, or spinning my own thread, not to mention using bone needles. Stainless steel suits me just fine. But, I really appreciate Mason's taking the extra effort to show us how it was done.
A second difference between the two is that Hunt has sections on Indian dances and dance steps while Mason, true to his title, deals exclusively with handicrafts. And, Mason typically covers a broader range of styles and techniques than Hunt.
Neither book deals in depth with the differences in dress and decoration across the hundreds of American Indian tribes. The archetype, so familiar from so many western movies, is the decoration of the plains Indians, such as the Sioux and Cheyenne. Both books deal secondarily with styles of the eastern woodland tribes such as the Iroquois and Algonquin and the tribes of the southwest such as the Navajo and Pueblo. But, these are books of crafts and designs, not ethnography!
Neither book includes a bibliography, but both authors have done other works on the same subject, and I'm sure these volumes are as useful as these two works.