Sale 624 Lot 182
* SHACKLETON, Ernest Henry, Sir (1874-1922). Aurora Australis. Printed at the Winter Quarters of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907, During the Winter Months of April, May, June, July, 1908. Illustrated with Lithographs and Etchings; by George Marston. Antarctica: Printed at the Sign of the 'Penguins'; by Joyce and Wild. Latitude 77 deg. 32' South Longitude 166 deg. 12' East, 1908.
4to (260 x 186 mm). 94 printed leaves including the colored title-page, 10 plates, 14 blanks. (A few tiny holes to first blank, some offsetting to blanks from binding leather). Bound by Bernard Day in original Venesta boards taken from expedition packing crates (upper cover stamped: "[A]NTARCTIC [EXPEDITI]ON 1907."; lower cover stamped: "[PAT]ES?), rebacked to match with leather, title and penguin motif stamped in blind on spine, green silk binding cord, edges uncut (skillfully rebacked to style, original horse-harness spine preserved separately with some old wear).
RARE VARIANT OF THE FIRST EDITION OF "THE MOST RENOWNED TITLE IN THE ANTARCTIC CANON" (Taurus), SIGNED BY SHACKLETON
According to Murray and Marston's Antarctic Days (see lot 141), at most 100 copies were produces; according to Rosove, "approximately sixty-five copies have been accounted for to date." That such a beautifully-produced book could be printed and bound in such extreme conditions by amateur book-makers is extraordinary. Murray and Marston recall: "It is too cold to keep the printer's ink fluid; it gets sticky and freezes. To cope with this a candle was set burning underneath the plate on which the ink was. This was all right, but it made the ink too fluid, and the temperature had to be regulated by moving the candle about."
Two variants are known. The rarest, as here, includes 10 plates and a leaf of text in the "An Ancient Manuscript" chapter by Frank Wild, which was subsequently excised and replaced with an eleventh plate entitled "Many shekels were needed for the ship to go forth" in copies printed later. The offending text describes five wealthy men who refused to contribute to the Expedition fund. According to Charles Boyle, "of the 56 copies Millard managed to locate two have variations...where an illustration is replaced by additional text" ("Aurora Australis," The Book Collector, p. 494, Vol. 67, No. 3, Autumn 2018). Martin L. Greene posits that Ross demanded that the offensive passage be deleted and replaced with the plate (see "Aurora Australis (1908)... A New Description of the First State of the First Book Published on the Antarctic Continent", in Book Talk: Essays on Books, Oak Knoll Press, 2006, pp.69-79). The Antarctic Circle census of copies of Aurora Australis describes the Streeter copy (now at the British Library), which bears the same signature of Shackleton as this copy; "Ernest Shackleton Editor." Their note about the signature quotes John Millard: "You will also note the single signature of Ernest Shackleton…There is also the possibility that it might be one of those 10 copies that Shackleton reportedly sold to Bumpus, the Bookseller in London." COPIES OF GREENE'S FIRST VARIANT ARE SCARCE AT AUCTION: according to American Book Prices Current, only one copy of the first variant has sold at auction in the last 40 years. Conrad p.146 ("A few more than 60... copies are extant"); Rosove 304.A1c; Renard 1436; Spence 1095; Streeter VII:4146 (also with 10 plates and signed "Ernest Shackleton Editor").