The Arctic Book Review

Reprints and new Editions of Books of Arctic and Antarctic Interest: 1999-2005

Over the years, many of the best books on the subject of the Arctic, its peoples, and exploration have fallen out of print. Today, with a resurgence of interest in the subject, some of these titles are coming back into print in new editions, making available classic texts which would otherwise have to be sought among rare book dealers or libraries. The Arctic Book Review dedicates this page to brief notices of such works, and to a list of works still unavailable which we would most like to see reprinted (reader suggestions of additions to this list are most welcome).

Recently Reprinted

Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (Oxford University Press)

This new edition of Verne's classic, freshly translated into English by William Butcher, is the first such in more than a century, and could hardly be more welcome. The older editions were rife with errors; in addition to a new and lucid translation, Butcher provides a most helpful introduction and notes. The only thing missing are the old steel-plate illustrations by Riou, but the availability of this fine new edition will, hopefully, restore it to its rightful place as one of the first — and best — Arctic adventure stories. — RP


Sten Nadolny, The Discovery of Slowness (Paul Dry Books)

Nadolny's brilliant novel, by far the best fictionalization of the career of Sir John Franklin, was unfortunately allowed to fall out of print by Penguin Books. Paul Dry Books has come to the rescue with this handsome new edition. — RP


Wilkie Collins, The Frozen Deep (Hesperus Classics)

Wilkie Collins's novella, based upon the play he wrote in collaboration with Dickens in 1857, had been out of print for nearly a century before Hesperus Classics came through with this handsomely produced edition. There is, alas, no introduction or notes, although the front and rear fly–leaves offer the reader at least a brief outline of Collins's career. Nevertheless, the text is freshly set in handsome and readable type, and together with the lovely cover image of an iceberg, make this an ideal edition for the contemporary reader. — RP


Matthew Henson, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole (Invisible Cities Press)

This fine new hardcover edition of Henson's autobiography should take the place of all previous editions, as it not only includes the entire original text, but a new introduction by Dr. S. Allen Counter, the man who located Henson's Amer-Eskimo son Anaukkaq, and reunited him with his American relatives. Henson's account of his work with Peary is remarkably without rancor (especially considering what we now know of how Peary treated Henson), and is generous also towards the Polar Eskimos, without whose vital assistance the 1909 trip to the Pole would have been impossible. Additional photographs are a further complement to the newly typeset and presented text. -- RP



Sir Ernest Shackleton, The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (Prospectus) (RAREnterprises)

RAREnterprises has produced a full-size facsimile edition of the extraordinarily scarce 1914 prospectus for the expedition for which Shackleton is best remembered. It is handsomely put up in letterpress on heavy, cream-colored stock, and copies of the original illustrations of the proposed route across the South Pole. Of particular interest are several pages of enthusiastic endorsements of the idea from a plethora of famous Arctic and Antarctic explorers. -- RP



Songs of the North: A Selection of Verses Printed in the Arctic, 1851

This small but striking letterpress reprint of a selection of verses actually printed in the Arctic during the 1851 search for Franklin was produced by the Ancora Press in Melbourne, with the addition of two distinctive lino-cut illustrations (as well as Headpiece and Colophon devices) by Dominique Dunstan. The "songs" of the title are a series of serious and comic verses, set to popular tunes, among them an "Arctic Anthem" which is set to the melody of 'God Save the Queen':

God bless the Resolute
(A ship of good repute,)
And all her Crew!
Make her victorious
Over old Boreas
Whene'er he's uproarious
Our Consorts too.

The above is a fair sample of the lighthearted tone of many of these verses, which are charming in their employment of jollity in the face of adversity. Songs of the North is certainly one of the most unusual reprints of nineteenth-century Arctic material in recent years. -- RP

N.B. -- Ancora Press is affiliated with Monash University's Centre for the Book, which is part of their School of Literary, Visual and Performance Studies.



Other Classic Reprints




Sir John Franklin, Journey to the Polar Sea, in the years 1819-20-21-22 (Brassey's Inc.)

This handsome edition of Franklin's original account of his disastrous first land expedition not only brings a classic narrative back into print, but does it with style. The large hardcover format employs wide margins, which allow for footnotes to appear as sidenotes. The original illustrations, alas, are not fully reproduced, but a center section of 24 glossy pages includes several of them, along with excellent maps, contemporary paintings, and new photographs of objects associated with the expedition. Among the most compelling of these images is a photograph of broken and hollowed-out caribou bones excavated at the site of Fort Enterprise, which offer mute testimony of the extreme privation of Franklin and the last few survivors. A new introduction by Jim Delgado, author of Across the Top of the World: The Quest for the Northwest Passage (1999), places the book in the context of Franklin's life and polar exploration, and offers an up-to-date bibliography of historical treatments of Franklin. Altogether, it is the most elegantly put-up edition of this book since John Murray's first edition, and a perfect gift for anyone with a consuming interest in Franklin, or the polar passion in general.



Pierre Berton, The Arctic Grail (Lyons Press)

Canadian historian Pierre Berton's book is widely regarded as the best -- and most wide-ranging -- account of the quests for both the Northwest Passage and the North Pole. Despite the vast amount of material he covers, Berton's narrative never flags in interest, and his individual portraits of explorers are vividly sketched. These narrow sand convoluted straits, crowded with historical bergs, are adroitly navigated by Berton, who had achieved the rare feat of writing a comprehensive history which maintains page-turning suspense almost from beginning to end. A timeline and extensive bibliography complete the work, making The Arctic Grail at once the most authoritative and most readable book on the history of Arctic exploration. Out of print in the US for years, it is now once more available, thanks to Lyons Press. -- RP


Chauncey Loomis, Weird and Tragic Shores (Modern Library)

The annals of Arctic exploration hold few tales as weird -- or as tragic -- as that of Charles Francis Hall, the former Cincinnati newspaperman turned explorer. At once a deeply religious man and a monomaniac capable of killing in cold blood, the staunchest defender and the harshest critic of the Inuit among whom he sojourned, Hall lived out a tissue of contradictions, wrapped inside the enigma of his own death by poison at the hands of one of his shipmates on the ill-fated Polaris expedition. Hall's story has never been more dramatically told than by Chauncey Loomis, a literary scholar who followed Hall's curious trail through old books, manuscripts, and the collections of the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution. Long out of print, this new edition, under the general aegis of Jonathan Krakauer and with a new introduction by Angela Barrett (Voyage of the Narwhal), Weird and Tragic Shores is a must-have for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Arctic explorers. -- RP


Francis Leopold M'Clintock, The Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas

Perhaps the most famous narrative of Arctic exploration, M'Clintock's account of how he located the first "in situ" remains of the Franklin Expedition has drawn readers under its spell for nearly a century and a half; among those whose interest in the Arctic was spurred by this book one may count readers as different as Adolphus Greeley and the novelist Joseph Conrad.  Long out of print in any edition, it has been brought back into view as one of K├Ânemann's "Travel Classics" series.

Richard Cyriax, Sir John Franklin's Last Arctic Expedition (Arctic Press)

Cyriax's book, originally published over fifty years ago, remains the most complete and detailed account of Franklin's 1845 expedition ever written. Some of Cyriax's conjectures have been seen as overly cautious, while in other regards he seems overly defensive of the reputation of the officers in charge, but no one has ever questioned his diligence and commitment to presenting all the known facts. Long impossible to find, it is now available in a limited edition from the Arctic Press which reproduces all the features of the original, including the fold-out maps.


Neville Poulsom, The White Ribbon

Collectors of military medals, as well as general historians, have long been grateful to Mr. Poulsom for the original edition of The White Ribbon, the most thorough and authoritative reference to the orders, awards, commendations, and service medals given to all who were a part of the "Discovery Service," as well as to civilians and citizens of other nations honored by the British government for Arctic services. This new edition incorporates considerable revisions and new materials, and is an essential reference for anyone researching Arctic exploration.