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An Albion in the Antarctic

The story of AURORA AUSTRALIS, the first book written, printed, illustrated and bound in Antarctica, during Sir Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition, 1907-9.

 

Antarctica is the coldest, highest, driest and windiest continent on Earth. Hostile and remote, even today attempts to visit and explore are fraught with difficulties and dangers. In this impossible environment, over one hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton planned a journey whereby he would take a small Albion hand-press, an etching press, Caslon Old Face type and materials, including Abbey Mills Greenfield paper, to produce a limited edition letterpress printed book, despite the conditions faced. It was bound using the stencilled packing cases in which the expedition took their produce and foodstuffs.

 

This edition is the definitive account of that endeavour to produce the first letterpress printed book in Antarctica, written from new research and contemporaneous records.

THE EDITION

Printed in 2019 on an Albion Press, akin to that used during Shackleton's expedition. Handset in justified setting and in founders 14pt Caslon Old Face, being the same that would have been taken by Shackleton and used in similar fashion, and again in keeping with such tradition, the whole printed one page at a time, as the printers did in Antarctica. 

 

The edition is printed on smooth white Zerkall watermarked paper 145gsm, and bound into the book is an original Abbey Mills Greenfield specimen paper, showing the same watermark on which Aurora Australis was printed.

 

Bound by Roger Grech, with a repeat pattern cover also printed from an original block on Abbey Mills Greenfield watermarked paper, this time a white specimen paper, the illustration taken from the original penguin press-mark used by the printers in their Antarctic edition. The book is housed in a two-tone blue cloth covered solander box, to also match the book's spine cloth in part.

 

Each copy is individually numbered with a separately printed endpaper on which the number is printed in a face called Tea-Chest, from 1 to 40, from foundry type, to emulate the stencilling used on the boards which covered the Antarctic edition. The endpapers are a blue Fabriano no longer made.

An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic

text

The text is freshly written from first-hand research at such institutions as the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, the Royal Geographical Society in London, the Saint Bride Foundation and other resources. 

 

The edition provides a brief background for the reader, setting out worthwhile information on the history of Antarctic Exploration and Polar Printing, as well as giving an overview on the Nimrod Expedition itself. There then follows greater detail and previously unrecorded information on the Printing Equipment, the Printing itself, as well as coverage of the Edition produced and what occurred once the expedition returned to England. A brief census of institutional copies and further worthwhile reading is also included.

The text blocks are designed around the images and illustrations, so that each page is presented in the most artistic way, despite the narrative itself being a non-fictional account. 

An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic

illustrations

There are numerous illustrative elements within this edition.

 

The first is a commissioned illustration and wood engraving by Paul Kershaw. Paul has been an elected member of the Society of Wood Engravers for over thirty years, and for almost the same length of time was also an elected Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. He was specifically commissioned for this edition because of the style of his engravings, which are perfectly suited to the subject matter. The relief print frontispiece required four print runs for each print, being made up of four separate blocks. No prints were taken from the wood block by the artist and therefore only 40 copies of this illustration will ever be available and only within this edition.

Three original line block illustrations follow, showing images of a map of Antarctic, a table-top Albion hand-press, and the Nimrod ship, each printed in a special mix of Antarctic blue ink, and thereafter surrounded by letterpress printed text for the narrative.

Four original photographs from the expedition are also printed within the book, in a specially formatted manner which allows for the images to be printed on the same pages on which the letterpress text was also printed.

 

The addition of a Zerkall light blue laid paper bound into the book, complementing the icy blue ink, provides for the inclusion of two line block prints, one of which is a diagram of the hut in which the printing was done. A light Japanese paper, called Sunome Senaka, was also tipped-in, for two further illustrations, being a two colour block print, and a title in ornamented initials that were used in the original Antarctic production. 

 

Numerous colour plates are tipped in by hand or bound in for the final set of illustrations, showcasing various relevant elements of the expedition and printing, including previously unpublished images. Two of these are presented as fold-outs. 

Various institutions and individuals assisted in the production and presentation of these illustrations, including Mark Askam, Alex Schneidemann, the Royal Geographical Society, Northend Creative Print Solutions and Centurion Graphics. 

An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic
An Albion in the Antarctic

(2019)

320 x 245mm

59 pp.

The edition is limited to 40 numbered copies only 

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© ST JAMES PARK PRESS 2020