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Shores of the Polar Sea
London: Marcus Ward & Co.,, 1878. A Narrative of the Arctic Expedition of 1875-6. Illustrated by Sixteen Chromo-Lithographs and numerous Engravings. Folio. Original publisher's blue cloth, elaborately decorated in black and gilt on the spine and upper board, panels in blind to the lower board, all edges gilt, brown surface-paper endpapers. Title page in red and black, coloured map frontispiece, 16 mounted chromolithographs on textured card, line-drawn historiated initials to each chapter, and 28 vignetted illustrations to the text. A little rubbed, corners bumped and head and tail of the spine crumpled, some adhesion damage to the endpapers and foxing verso, as also to half-title, lightly to the title, and a scatter throughout, but tight, and overall clean, remaining an unusually well-preserved copy in the cloth. First and only edition. A "sumptuous volume" (Books on Ice), illustrating Nares's British Arctic Expedition 1875–6. Moss was naval surgeon aboard Nares's flagship Alert "but also served as artist for the expedition." Moss places the emphasis on his pictorial efforts - which offer some of the classic images of the heroic era of polar exploration - but the text still represents "a substantial and engaging account" of the expedition. Moss "is a quiet observer, noticing the literacy of young Greenlanders, the details of shipboard rituals, the 'disappointingly limited' open seas within the ice, 'the complicated hieroglyphic savouring of Freemasonry … Moss's original drawings for the chromolithographs are at the Scott Polar Research Institute." Encouraged by the reports of the American expeditions of Isaac Israel Hayes and C. F. Hall, which had "revived the belief in an open polar sea and suggested that land extended far to the north, west of Robeson Channel" (ODNB), the Nares expedition was intended to reach the pole via Smith Sound. A sledge party under Commander Markham of the Alert did reach "83°20' N, a heroic achievement considering that the pack ice was extremely rough, and also drifting south almost as fast as they were travelling northwards." But both ships were severely affected by scurvy and Nares made the "morally courageous" decision to return home. Rarely found intact in original binding, this remains a handsome copy of this important book.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2017-06-22           Check availability:      IOBABooks    

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