December 7, 2005 - February 4, 2006
Books on Ice: British and American
Literature of Polar Exploration
Curated by David & Deirdre Stam
For daring adventurers in both North and South Polar regions, books seem to have been as essential as pemmican, primus stoves, fuel, and furs. Exploration ships had large libraries, and sledging journeys often included a few books for idle times. They were routinely hauled to the far reaches of cold regions, and were even found with the frozen bodies of those unlucky enough not to return. For the coming winter season the Grolier Club has planned a major exhibition providing a selective history of polar exploration through the medium of print and the role of printing in high latitudes. The show is curated by David H. Stam, University Librarian Emeritus at Syracuse University, and Deirdre C. Stam, Director, New York Center for the Book.
In the exhibit is the copy of Tennyson In Memoriam Maud and Other Poems
(1906) found with the bodies of Robert Falcon Scott and Edward Wilson in Antarctica in 1912 (University of Rochester); a prayer book found with the skeletal remains of Sir John Franklin's ill-fated party seeking the Northwest Passage (National Maritime Museum); and a book of Arctic voyages from the library of HMS Resolute, one of the Franklin Search vessels. Books, magazines, and posters were also printed in the cold, both ashore and on shipboard presses; a copy of Aurora Australis,
the first book printed in Antarctica in 1908 under the supervision of Sir Robert Shackleton, is included here (Dartmouth College Library). There is also a theatrical broadside celebrating a Guy Faux Night Grand Ball aboard HMS Plover, and printed aboard that ship at Point Barrow for the November 5, 1853 event (Duke University Library).
First editions and association copies of explorers' accounts make up the bulk of this bibliographic iceberg, which also includes printed or inscribed ephemera such as commemorative cigarette cards depicting major explorers from the early twentieth century, a can of pemmican with printed label from Admiral Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909, Roald Amundson's inscribed binoculars from the South Pole, and a commemorative wall plaque with mounted penguin head from the Lincoln Ellsworth Collection at the American Museum of Natural History.
Talks associated with the exhibition include Sian Flynn of the National Maritime Museum speaking about Scott, Shackleton, and Amundsen (Dec. 7); oral historian Fred Calabretta of Mystic Seaport Museum (Dec. 13); Professor Michael Bravo of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, on "Narrating the Poles" (Dec. 19); and David H. Stam on the exhibition itself (Jan. 10, 2006).
LOCATION AND TIMES: "Books on Ice: the British and American Literature of Polar Exploration" will be on public view at the Grolier Club from December 7, 2005 through February 4, 2006, with the exception of December 23-27 (Christmas holiday), and December 31-January 2 (New Year holiday). Hours: Monday-Saturday 10 AM - 5 PM. Open to the public free of charge. An illustrated catalogue (6 x 9 in. 192 pp. 40 illustrations, some in color) will be available. For more information e-mail Megan Smith at the