Our latest catalogue, Exploration & Travel 2023 is about to be published. The 131 items include spectacular voyages and beautiful colour plate books, so I have selected, as a preview, five items that might get overlooked amongst such grand offerings.


Two Years in the Antarctic

London, 1905


Item 5 is a copy of Albert Armitage’s Two Years in the Antarctic. To my mind this is one of the most important narratives of the Antarctic ‘Golden Age’, being one of the few first-hand accounts of Scott’s ‘Discovery’ Expedition. With its fugitive green cloth binding it is tricky to find a good-looking copy but here there is only minor fading to the spine and the copy is further elevated by having a lengthy presentation inscription from Armitage.


[Livingstone's return from Southern Africa]

London, 1857


In what is quite a strong section on Africa, my favourite is item 52. This is the individual issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society for 1857. It contains the first account of David Livingstone’s discoveries in South Africa. It is just such a beautifully preserved copy, and the chances of finding another are very slim.

William Dawson HOOKER

Notes on Norway

Glasgow, 1839


I don’t buy many books on Europe outside of Greece and the Balkans,  but I do have a soft spot for the chilly northern climes. Item 73 is the privately printed account of William Hooker’s Notes on Norway(1839). As a doctor and botanist, Hooker brings a scientific mind to his observations. This, combined with the atmospheric lithographs of the far north, the original nondescript brown wrappers, and the fact that it is an inscribed presentation copy, really appeal to me.

Gertrude BELL

The Arab of Mesopotamia

Basra, 1918


A small book printed anonymously in Basra in 1917 might not attract too much attention but The Arab of Mesopotamia (item 86) is by Gertrude Bell. In it she turns her attention to a variety of subjects including not only the tribes and chiefs of Iraq, Syria, and Eastern Arabia, but also Palestine and Zionism, as well as Kurdistan. Hot topics then as now.

[Indian Railways]

North Western Railway time table

Lahore, 1905


Finally, my favourite entry, item 116, the North Western Railway Time table for special trains conveying their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales and suite, Lahore (1905). I suppose it is not really a book, rather a stunningly beautiful brochure produced for the royal party, celebrating the visit of the future King George V and Queen Mary to India. What makes it for me is the series of 12 original mounted  photographs including the tomb of Ranjit Singh and the Golden Temple at Amritsar. This tour produced a lot of works on paper, but few can match this for the sheer sense of luxury. Definitely ‘Peak Raj’.

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