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st james park press

An Albion in the Antarctic

An Albion in the Antarctic

This is the full story of the making of Aurora Australis, which was 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.


An Albion in the Antarctic is the definitive account of that endeavour, written from new and original research and from contemporaneous records from 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 used, the actual printing of Aurora Australis, as well as detailed bibliographic accounts on 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.


A FACSIMILE EDITION was released in 2023, which included an additional Foreword by Shackleton expert Jan Piggott (who had previously written an accompanying essay to the Folio Society’s own facsimile of Aurora Australis) and a new Preface, neither in the first edition.



Hand-printing of the first edition began at the end of 2018 and was completed by the beginning of 2020. It was printed letterpress with hand-set metal type on an Albion Press, emulating that used during Shackleton's expedition. In keeping with such tradition, the whole book was printed one page at a time, as they had done in Antarctica.


The FACSIMILE EDITION is a complete re-creation of the first edition, printed by Offset Lithography at Northend Fine Print. Utilising digital Founder’s Caslon, graphic designer Mark Askam undertook the laborious task of tracing the digital text over the first edition, so that the quirks of not simply the page layout, but the spacing of the text itself, was adopted. As the digital type is not a precise match for metal type and digital spacing does not mimic a compositor’s hand-setting, this required word by word adjustments, line by line. This exacting replication results in an edition that goes beyond merely a facsimile.



The first edition was hand-set in founders 14pt Caslon Old Face, being the same that would have been taken by Shackleton on the Nimrod Expedition. The endpapers are printed with founders Tea-Chest type, to emulate the stencilling used on the boards which covered the Antarctic edition.


For the FACSIMILE EDITION, digital Founder’s Caslon was used, drawn by the Caslon scholar Justin Howes, which is a replication that maintains the uneven edges and peculiarities of the original types.



The first edition features a wood engraving by Paul Kershaw, member of the Society of Wood Engravers and Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, commissioned for the edition. This frontispiece required four print runs for each print, being made up of four separate woodblocks. The FACSIMILE EDITION replicates this frontispiece via a digital scan.

Further illustrative elements in both editions include: three original line block illustrations (a map of Antarctic, a table-top Albion hand-press, and the Nimrod ship); four original photographs from the expedition (printed for the first edition 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); and a variety of further photographs, page-spreads, line blocks and ornamented initials, some presented as fold-outs.


Institutions and individuals assisting in the production and presentation of these illustrations include: Mark Askam, Alex Schneidemann, Royal Geographical Society, Northend Fine Print and Centurion Graphics. ​

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



The first edition is printed on smooth white Zerkall watermarked paper 145gsm, with additional pages on light blue Zerkall laid paper, Sunome Senaka Japanese paper and blue Fabriano endpapers. Tip-ins and fold-outs are printed on 115gsm PhoeniXmotion Xantur paper. Bound into the book is an original Abbey Mills Greenfield paper, showing the same watermark on which Aurora Australis was printed.


The FACSIMILE EDITION is printed on 140gsm Woodstock Bianco, Woodstock Azzurro and 180gsm Materica Aqua from the fine Italian papermaker, Fedrigoni. The letterpress Foreword and Preface are printed on smooth white Zerkall paper. Tipped into the book is a section of original Abbey Mills Greenfield paper, showing part of the same watermark as above.



The first edition is bound by Roger Grech, in woven cotton Dubletta RAF Blue and a repeat pattern cover printed on Abbey Mills Greenfield watermarked 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.


The FACSIMILE EDITION is bound by Roger Grech and Hana Grace Remington, in woven cotton Dubletta RAF Blue and repeat pattern cover. An optional slipcase is bound with Dubletta RAF Blue and dark blue Bugra Butten paper.

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



Printed at the Sign of the Penguins[.] Aurora Australis[:] A Commentary

Parenthesis (Number 40, Spring 2021)



[First Edition]

41 numbered copies

(2019, 59pp., 245mm(w) x 320mm(h))



92 numbered copies

(2022, 63pp., 245mm(w) x 320mm(h))


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