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Adventures in High Latitudes

Adventures in High Latitudes
Watching the Earth burn and flood as climate change takes hold, with all the devastation and misery it brings to every corner of the world, I was struck by the damage it causes to human imagination.
Adventures in High Latitudes

The destruction of the rain forests, the disappearance of glaciers, the shrinking of the Polar ice caps, have removed the thrill of major surface exploration. No more dreams of lost tribes, Prester John, Eldorado. To recapture that sense of wonder about what might be, I turn to the classics of exploration and travel, to see the world through the eyes of pioneers and adventurers who risked their lives to discover what is out there.

Few places provide a starker contrast between then and now as the Arctic. One of the earliest travellers to the region was the Dutch navigator and cartographer, Willem Barentsz (c. 1550-1597) after whom the Barents Sea was named. He made three expeditions to the North, being stranded on Novaya Zemlya for almost a year on the final one. One can only imagine what it was like to be stuck there. Appalling living conditions, inadequate clothing, long dark days, and always the chance of providing a polar bear with a bit of variety in its diet. Still, they were driven by a vision of what they might find. We have the 1876 Hakluyt Society edition, The Three Voyages of William Barents to the Arctic Regions, the best account in English of these amazing voyages.

A major account of the Arctic is that of George Back. He was an experienced explorer who took part in both Franklin expeditions and was sent to search for Sir John Ross who had been missing for three years. Ross turned up safe and well so Back continued mapping vast tracts of the seacoast, and most importantly explored the major river, known as the Haningayok to the Inuit, the Great Fish River to others, and now known as The Back River. Narrative of the Arctic Land Exploration is difficult to obtain in acceptable condition, the cloth wears badly, and the paper stock is prone to foxing. Our copy of what Raymond Howgego calls one of the finest travel books of the nineteenth century, is well above average.

John Nevins, a surgeon on a Hudson’s Bay Company vessel, made two voyages to Hudson’s Bay in 1842-43. Nevins provides a very interesting account of Chippawa, Cree, and Inuit life. This little book was published by the S.P.C.K. so one would expect to see it around, but it is incredibly scarce. One rebound copy appears twice at auction, in the storied Siebert and Brooke-Hitching sales, other than that I have only ever seen it in a couple of dealers’ catalogues, and it is missing from most of the bibliographies that one would expect to find it. Our copy of A Narrative of Two Voyages to Hudson’s Bay is a charming example in the original green blindstamped cloth.

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Shapero Rare Books is an internationally renowned dealer in London, specialising in antiquarian & rare books and works on paper, with particular expertise in fine illustrated books from the 15th to the 20th century, travel & voyages, natural history, modern firsts, rare children’s books, guidebooks, Hebraica & Judaica, Eastern European, and Islamica

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