Auctions | November 18, 2013

Signed “Antarctic Days” at Bonhams’ Travel Sale

Antarctic Days: Sketches of the Homely Side of Polar Life, written and illustrated by two of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s men, is among the chilly highlights at Bonhams Travel & Exploration sale on Wednesday 4 December in London’s Knightsbridge. Number 14 of the 280 copies of the deluxe edition, the book is estimated at £8,000-12,000.

Before powered vehicles and heated thermals, Antarctic exploration was no easy feat. However, the authors and illustrators of Antarctic Days, James Murray and George Marston, portray their struggles in a different light—theirs is a personal, emotional, even humourous account.

In the introduction, Shackleton writes: "For the first time an unofficial, and therefore more human document, is presented to the public ... I would advise anyone who wants to get to the kernel of the life of a Polar explorer to read the book".

Antarctic Days is signed by Shackleton, Murray, and Marston—our three musketeers. It includes 4 colour plates mounted with captioned tissue guards, 32 photographic plates, and 18 illustrations in the text, and has an illustration of an iceberg mounted as issued on the upper cover. This deluxe edition is an exceptional copy, housed in an excellent example of the rare first state dust-jacket lettered in gilt. 

Keeping Antarctic Days warm at the sale is Shackleton’s own epic story of leadership and survival, South: The Story of The Last Expedition 1914-1917. This first edition is branded with an image of Shackleton’s ship, ‘Endurance’, and lettering in silver gilt on its cover, and consists of 87 photographic plates on 44 leaves, one folding map, and illustrations in the text. It is estimated to fetch between £2,000 and £3,000

The simply titled South is the first hand-written account of the ‘Endurance’ expedition, and the best known story in Antarctic literature. As WWI broke out, Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole fell into grave danger. His ship sank, and he and his men were forced to make their way to Elephant Island over ice and water. South describes Shackleton’s leadership and rescue of all 28 men after a dramatic open boat journey across one of the world’s most hostile environments.

It’s time to bring out those Winter warmers: here are the wonders and woes of the ice and cold.