“A BREATHTAKING RECITAL OF CONTINUOUS ADVENTURE”:1836 FIRST EDITION OF BACK’S ARCTIC LAND EXPEDITION
BACK, George. Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River and Along the Shores of the Arctic Ocean in the Years 1833, 1834, 1835. London: John Murray, 1836. Thick octavo, period-style half brown calf gilt, original cloth spine label retained, marbled boards. $2500.
First edition, octavo issue of this extraordinary account of Back’s journey down the uncharted Great Fish River, with 16 full-page engravings and lithographs produced by Finden and Haghe after drawings by Back himself, and a large folding map, also by Back.
“A breathtaking recital of continuous adventure,” George Back’s expedition charted over 1200 miles of new territory and made important observations on the Aurora Borealis, all while working under appalling conditions (Mirsky, 122). The original purpose of the trek was to determine the fate of the second Ross expedition, which had set out in 1829 and was feared lost in the Arctic Ocean. Back, a veteran of the Franklin expeditions, volunteered to lead an overland expedition north along the Great Fish River, which extends from the Rae Strait to the Great Slave Lake in northern Canada, west of Hudson’s Bay. Notified that Ross had returned safely to England, Back was directed to proceed with an expedition of discovery during which he found the river now named for him. “As a literary composition this work may rank higher than any former volume produced by the northern expeditions” (Edinburgh Review). Twelve pages of publisher’s advertisements at rear. Published simultaneously with the scarce quarto large-paper edition of the same year. Arctic Bibliography 851. Staton & Tremaine 1873. Graff 130. Wagner-Camp 58b:1. Field 64. Sabin 2613. Bookplate.
Text and plates generally quite clean, light foxing to first few leaves, tape repair to one fold of map. A near-fine copy.