Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rare Books, the Arctic, Part 3

American Exploration in the Ice Zones… by J.E. Nourse. Published by D. Lothrop and Company, Boston and London (Trubner & Co., Ludgate Hall, 1884.

American Exploration concentrates on notable discoveries and expeditions of the 19th century. In one volume the offerings are: the relief voyage of the JEANNETTE (the Jeannette was a whaling ship wrecked in the waters near Alaska); a description of the merchant service; the Antarctic cruise of 1840 with Charles Wilkes; and the U.S. Signal Service Arctic Observers. There are over 120 wood engravings and several maps.

Charles Wilkes is known for his abilities as surveyor (Pacific Northwest Territories, and the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) for which he wrote a 5-volume treatise), an admiral; and during his contribution to the Civil War when he ordered gunboats to attack the Royal Mail ship, the Merlin, and as author of journals which described these exploits.

Photographs in more recent books on exploration at the Poles include names you are familiar with: Shackleton, Greely, Franklin, etc., published in the 20th century. Two examples which utilized photographs as illustrations to help tell the complete story are:

The Polar Regions in the Twentieth Century; Their Discovery and Industrial Evolution by A. W. Greely, 1928.

To the Arctic! The Story of Northern Exploration from Earliest Times to the Present by Jeannette Mirsky, 1949.

Providing a review of the extreme hardships they endured and paid for with their lives, their personal stories make history even more fantastic and their legendary accomplishments even more amazing. Illustrated with photographs, and some graphic illustrations, the books have an agenda for the reader: in some cases, heroism, and in other cases, nationalism, in still others, historical fact.

For a modern take on exploration of the arctic, see an interesting biography of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, 1872-1962, writer of the introduction to “To the Arctic!...”. The biography is available here.

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