Auctions | September 2, 2015

Sotheby’s to Offer the Finest Collection of Books Relating to Scott & Shackleton


100 years on from Shackleton’s epic “Endurance” expedition, considered the final great voyage of the “heroic” age of Antarctic exploration, Sotheby’s will offer for sale the finest private collection of books relating to the polar explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton. Pioneering publishers and writers, they produced some of the most outstanding and rare of all travel books, recounting their great feats of adventure, ill-fated voyages, daily lives and discoveries in the South Pole.

With highlights including the first book ever printed in Antarctica, Shackleton’s very own Antarctic handbook and a facsimile of the South Polar Times (the newspaper produced by Scott’s men in the Antarctic), the collection will be offered for sale in London on 30 September 2015. All the books come from the library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, who, over 40 years, has assembled the most magnificent private collection of English language books charting the discovery of the world. While many of the books are unique or very rare, all are notable for being in the finest possible condition.

To ward off the boredom (or “polar ennui”) of overwintering in the perpetual dark, Shackleton and Scott urged their men to write, illustrate and record their adventures to sustain morale in the highest, windiest and driest environment on earth. Untouched by scientists until the twentieth century, Antarctica was the last great wilderness on earth to be explored; the adventurers took typewriters, printing presses, painting and photographic equipment half way across the world to record their experience.

An advert Shackleton placed in the London Times prior to setting off to Antarctica in 1901 outlined the challenges anticipated ahead: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."

Please click here for further information regarding the sale: “Exploration and Discovery, 1576-1939: The Library of Franklin Brooke-Hitching, Part 4, Q-Z” on 30 September 2015.




Ernest Shackleton’s Aurora Australis (est. £50,000-70,000) Printed “at the sign of the Penguins”, Winter quarters of the British Antarctic Expedition, Cape Royds,1909

The first book ever printed in Antarctica, Aurora Australis is considered the most desirable title in the Antarctic canon. A celebrated rarity, at most 100 copies of this book were produced of which about 70 are accounted for today. Printed ‘at the sign of the Penguins’ at Cape Royds in 1909, Aurora Australis is bound in the original venesta boards (an early plywood) taken from the expedition packing crates. This example is known as a “tea copy” (‘marmalade’ and ‘butter’ copies are also known). The stencilling on the original crate is visible on the inside of the covers. The spine is fashioned from leather horse harnesses.

That such a beautiful book should be produced on a simple printing press in such testing conditions (the ink would often freeze), is remarkable. Consisting of fact, fiction, humour, prose and poetry, and lithographs and etchings by George Marston (the official artist for the British Antarctic Expedition), Aurora Australis is one of the most celebrated travel books ever written.


Ernest Shackleton, The Heart of the Antarctic. London, 1909 (est. £10,000-15,000)

A fine copy of "the most luxurious publication ever to have appeared during the 'heroic age' of Antarctic exploration" (Taurus), signed by the fifteen men of the shore party, including Shackleton, who set up base at Cape Royds in February 1908.

Only 300 copies of this book were ever produced. Illustrated with a drawing of Shackleton by George Marston, the official artist to the expedition, this is Shackleton’s personal account of the journey that made him a public hero: The Nimrod expedition (1907-9) when Shackleton travelled further South than anyone had ever been before (only 112 miles from the Pole). The expedition also marked the first (failed) experiment to use an automated vehicle in the Antarctic, and the first ascent of Mount Erebus (Antarctica's second highest volcano). On his return to Britain, Shackleton was knighted.


The newspaper produced by Captain Scott’s men during his three expeditions to Antarctica (est. £20,000-30,000)

A facsimile of the typescripts for “The South Polar Times”: the newspaper produced by Captain Scott’s men during his three expeditions to Antarctica. With a rollcall of editors including Ernest Shackleton (then a junior officer) and Apsley Cherry-Garrad, the paper was produced to entertain and amuse the men as they endured the perpetual dark of the Antarctic winters. Marked by their jollity, the pages include photographs, caricatures, cartoons and breath-taking watercolours. The last issue of the “South Polar Times” provides the most touching copy. Written and produced in June 1912, by which time the men living in the expedition hut of Ross Island knew that Scott and his four companions would be dead, the paper includes no mention of the fact that their friends were missing.

Further highlights include:

—Shackleton’s Antarctic manual-his personal copy of George Murray’s Antarctic Manual that he used during his 1901 expedition to the Antarctic under Captain Scott. Signed inside “Ernest H. Shackleton. ‘Discovery’ 1901” (est. £7,000-10,000).

—From Shackleton’s family library at Swinford, a copy of Frank Arthur Worsely’s Shackleton's Boat Journey (1933)-the first separate account of Shackleton’s famous escape from Elephant Island to summon help for the trapped crew of the Endurance (est. £400-500)

—An album of photographs and sketches from Captain Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904. “The most impressive publication to have resulted from any British experience in the Antarctic... a virtual photographic encyclopaedia of the Discovery voyage, together with reproductions of Edward Wilson’s watercolours depicting the Aurora” (Taurus Collection). Est. £1,500-2,500.