Lines in the Ice: Marginalia

My recent talk at Shapero Rare Books gave me the opportunity to spend some time browsing catalogues and, most excitingly, shelves while I waited for guests to arrive. Rare book dealers like Shapero inhabit the same areas of London as book collectors such as Sir Joseph Banks used to house their collections and to stand in such rooms browsing these items is to be connected with this book-collecting past. I also came across a number of titles that caught my interest for being part of or related to the history told in Lines in the Ice: Exploring the Northwest Passage; the following are some of my favourites.


A beautiful work in its own right The South Polar Times is part of a tradition of polar printing. Arctic explorers like William Edward Parry pioneered the idea of ship’s newspapers as a way of keeping their crews stimulated during the winter months. During the search for Sir John Franklin these became popular souvenirs of Arctic voyages for the British public and The South Polar Times is a fine entry in this tradition.

DE VEER, GERRIT. The three voyages of William Barents to the Arctic regions, 1594, 1595, and 1596. First edition edited by Charles T. Beke ...1853. Second Edition, with an introduction, by Lieutenant KoolemansBeynen ...Printed for the Hakluyt Society, London, 1876

De Veer’s account of the arduous voyages of William Barents is harrowing and made all the more striking by the wood cuts which accompanied it. Showing the crew fending off polar bears and cutting channels through the ice for small boats they are a testament to the hardship and danger of polar exploration.

SARYTSCHEW, Gawrila [GavriilAndreevich SARYCHEV]. Account of a voyage of discovery to the north-east of Siberia, the frozen ocean, and the north-east sea. J.G. Barnard for Richard Phillips, London, 1806-7

This is a beautiful account of a Russian expedition along the Northeast Passage led by an Englishman, Joseph Billings. Billings had sailed with Captain James Cook and is an example of how skilled explorers worked across international boundaries, spreading their skills and knowledge around the world. The expedition narrative details encounters with various Arctic indigenous peoples and, perhaps most importantly, it provides an insightful view into the eastward expansion of the Russian economy and state.

Dr. Philip Hatfield is Lead Curator for Digital Mapping at the British Library. More information on the subjects discussed above can be found in his book Lines in the Ice: Exploring the Roof of the World.

Rare Books: Polar Exploration in Arctic & Antarctica

Browse first editions and rare books relating to exploration in the polar regions, the Arctic and Antarctica, available to purchase from Shapero Rare Books.

For more information please contact Julian in our Travel department