News | September 19, 2023

Antarctic Explorer Nobu Shirase's Personal Military Textbooks to Auction

Potter & Potter

Lot #195, Ernest H. Shackleton's (1874-1922) The Heart of the Antarctic, Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909 and The Antarctic Book. Winter Quarters 1907-1909, estimated at $20,000-30,000.

Potter & Potter Auctions’ 'Lieutenant Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1912: The Important Collection of Chet Ross Sale' will be held on October 12 featuring his historic collection of publications plus other materials related to exploration, travel, and the polar regions.  

In 2010 Ross authored the first and only bibliography about the expedition, the first book written about the Japanese explorer and his expedition in English in the 100 years since he departed Tokyo Bay enroute to Antarctica. The bibliography featured more than 50 publications related to Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition which for the first time are now coming across the auction block. Since the publication, several new items have been located including Shirase's personal military textbooks and the sale catalogue will act as a revised bibliography with new entries and insights previously unknown to the public. 

Among the lots are first editions of Shirase's personal textbooks which he used while attending military training including Yano Ryueki's 1881-84 two volume political novel Young Politicians of Thebes: Illustrious Tales of
Statesmanship inscribed by Shirase and date 1884 when he was a 23-year-old officer in the Japanese (estimate $15,000/20,000).

The sale also features Ernest H. Shackleton's The Heart of the Antarctic, Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909 and The Antarctic Book. Winter Quarters 1907-1909, which together are estimated at $20,000-30,000. These three volumes were printed in London by William Heinemann in 1909, and this first edition, limited issue - number 104 of 300 copies - is signed by 16 members of the shore party including Shackleton. 

"This has been a sale several years in the making," said Chris Brink, Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Potter & Potter Auctions, "and a personal goal of mine since I started at Potter & Potter. I wanted to put together a sale solely dedicated to exploration that would help expand our knowledge on the subject with items that have never come to market. Chet Ross's collection of Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition is the first of its kind to come to auction and will be sure to turn some heads."

Other lots include:

  • the original 35mm motion picture camera used to film parts of Richard E. Byrd's (1888-1957) first Antarctic expedition (estimate: $30,000-50,000). It was made in New York by Akeley Camera around 1922 and used by Willard Van der Veer (1894-1963) and Joseph T. Rucker (1887-1957), the first professional cinematographers in Antarctica. 
  • a very limited - if not one-of-one - reproduction of Nobu Shirase's Shirase Nankyoku Tanken Kiroku/Lt. Shirase’s Antarctic Expedition film, estimated at $15,000-25,000. Its footage includes preparation for departure, the journey south, the return to and stay in New Zealand, the second attempt to reach Antarctica, landfall on the Antarctic Continent, and the return to Japan. 
  • a rice paper folded fan with a poem signed and dated by Shirase, estimated at $12,000-15,000
  • the original auxiliary deck wheel from the USS Bear - in 1928, Byrd purchased the USS Bear to be used as one of two ships for his first Antarctic expedition to establish the famous research base at Little America