BRADFORD, William.

The Arctic regions,


The Arctic regions,
illustrated with photographs taken on an art expedition to Greenland.
London, S. Low, Marston Low, and Searle, 1873.

In stock

The Arctic regions,


‘Not only a major monument of photography but also of nineteenth century book making’ (Books on Ice). A notorious Arctic rarity, one of only 36 copies located.

This voyage aboard the Panther in the summer of 1869 was one of seven trips to Labrador and Greenland that Bradford sponsored or participated in during the 1860’s, all early examples of what might be called ‘eco-art tourism’. Artist William Bradford was not the principal photographer for this book. His assistants, John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson took most of the photographs whilst Bradford Bradford sketched the same scenes.

Of the photographs, Martin Parr writes: ‘they also contributed to, indeed largely invented, that staple of arctic expedition photography, the tiny ship struggling through towering sheets of ice – the classic, but nevertheless compelling cliché of man against the elements’ (The Photobook: A History, 2004).

William Bradford (1823-1892), a painter of the Hudson River School, is known for his paintings of ships and Arctic seascapes. In 1869, having secured the sponsorship of a wealthy patron in Le Grand Lockwood (to whose memory the book is dedicated, he having passed away in 1872), Bradford chartered the steamship The Panther, and set off for Greenland, to set the frozen north to pen and paper. The aim was to venture as far as ice would permit, deep into Melville Bay in Greenland, primarily to make sketches and also to explore the region. He hired for the expedition the photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson from Boston, who had traveled with Bradford before, and the noted Arctic explorer Dr. Isaac Hayes also joined the party. The three month summer trip was a great success; Bradford produced a large number of sketches and Dunmore and Critcherson took hundreds of photographs (Bradford is now believed to have taken a number of the photographs himself). The remarkable photographs, made under extremely harsh freezing conditions, are a tribute to the skill and fortitude of the photographers. Once back in his studio, Bradford used the sketches and photographs to create many fine, finished paintings. In 1871 and 1872 Bradford exhibited the paintings and sketches in England to great acclaim, and attracted the patronage of Queen Victoria.
This prompted Bradford to plan publication of an album of photographs, and when Queen Victoria and other members of the royal family added their names as subscribers (at a cost of 25 guineas apiece), the “album” was transformed into a lavish publication, with a text combining sober scientific observation with romantic hyperbole. Three hundred copies were proposed (some sources say 350), although it is thought that significantly fewer were actually published. The publisher, Marston, had already some experience with photographic books: he had just published the Valley of the Grisly, also by a painter, Bierstadt, with photos by Watkins.

‘The most beautiful photographic book on the Arctic region’ (Coron, BnF).


First edition. Large folio (64 x 52 cm. approx), half-title, title in red and black, dedication leaf, 141 mounted albumen photographs (116 mounted in the text and 25 mounted as inserted plates, including one double-page plate), mounted on guards throughout, original brown morocco gilt by Leighton Son and Hodge with gilt pictorial vignette by G. Littlejohn to upper cover, neatly rebacked preserving spine, light fading to photographs, a very good copy of one of the most remarkable books on the Arctic.


Books on Ice 10.11; Gernsheim Incunabula of British Photography 570; Grolier, Truthful Lens 24; A. Coron, Des Livres rares depuis l’invention de l’imprimerie, exhibition BnF 1998, #67 (“luxueux ouvrage […] mise en pages eblouissante […] spectaculaire reliure […] monument de l’edition photographique”).


Stock ID: 90711