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The first book printed on Antarctica

The first book printed on Antarctica

...one of just 80 copies printed... during the long winter hours.

This is a rare edition of the first book printed on the Antarctic Continent - 'Aurora Australis', which was edited by Ernest Shackleton in 1909. The book is bound in expedition packing cases, and just 80 copies were printed.

'Aurora Australis' was compiled during the Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica led by Ernest Shackleton in 1908-1909. It is a compilation of writings and illustrations produced by members of the Nimrod Expedition to keep them meaningfully occupied during the long winter hours.

Over-wintering in Antarctica was a long, dark and potentially boring business – waiting for the time when the expedition members could get on with the work that they were there to do. So finding engaging and meaningful activities to occupy members of the expedition party during these difficult times was essential for their wellbeing.

Shackleton wrote in the preface: "Six years ago it fell to my lot to edit and print the first Antarctic publication; it is my fortune now to edit another. There are essential differences between the two efforts, for the South Polar Times was typewritten and only one copy could be issued, whereas Aurora Australis is actually printed, and therefore allows of a larger edition. Again; the labours of the Editor are light, for the bulk of the work falls on the shoulders of the Printers and Artist."

Quick Facts

  • Printed 1909
  • Printed at the Nimrod Expedition Hut, Ross Island, Antarctica
  • Made of paper and packing cases
  • Printed by Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild
  • Edited by Ernest Shackleton

Facts

  • 'Aurora Australis' forms a part of the Oates Memorial Library collection at Gilbert White's House & Garden and the Oates Collection, Selborne, Hampshire.
  • The book is printed on good quality paper watermarked Abbey Mills Greenfield. The separate printed pages are drilled and laced together to form the text block. The book was bound using wooden expedition packing cases forming the front and back covers, connected with a leather spine.
  • 'Aurora Australis' contains ten articles, ranging from a factual report The Ascent of Mount Erebus, by Geologist and Director of Scientific Staff T.W. Edworth David, to Midwinter Night, a comic verse contributed by Shackleton.
  • The printing was done entirely by expedition members Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild who had been given a three week course by the printing firm Joseph Causton and Sons, who had donated the printing press and all of the equipment and materials needed for the production of the book.
  • Shackleton in his preface to the book wrote: "Now; seven years is the usual time to serve as apprentice to the printing and lithographic trades, and as only three weeks could be spared by the producers of this little book to learn the business, any shortcomings will be leniently viewed both by the small public in this colony and by our friends at home to whom we trust these pages will be of interest."

Did you know?

Ernest Shackleton used the pen name 'Nimmo' for his contribution of Midwinter Night, a comic verse included in the book.

Fact Sheets

Things to Do

  • Just like Shackleton's men use the long, cold winter nights to compile your own verse, writings and sketches, to keep the ‘winter blues’ at bay.

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