“THE DOGS HAD JUST LAIN DOWN IN THE SNOW, WHEN AN ENORMOUS WHITE BEAR MADE HIS APPEARANCE”: FIRST ENGLISH EDITION OF VON WRANGEL’S NARRATIVE OF AN EXPEDITION TO THE POLAR SEA, 1840
(WRANGEL, Ferdinand von.) SABINE, Edward, editor. Narrative of an Expedition to the Polar Sea, in the Years 1820, 1821, 1822, & 1823. Commanded by Lieutenant, now Admiral, Ferdinand von Wrangell, of the Russian Imperial Navy. London: James Madden, 1840. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter green morocco. $1500.
First edition in English of this report of a Russian naval expedition in the Arctic Sea, with a large folding map of Northeastern Siberia.
Von Wrangel (whose name also appears in transliteration as Vrangel or Wrangell) headed a Russian government expedition to survey the coast eastward from the Kolyma River and northward in the East Siberian Sea for new land. The expedition was able to establish that north of Cape Shelagsky was only open sea, and not land; charted the Siberian coast from the Indigirka River to Kolyuchinskaya Bay; and collected data on climate, geomagnetics, glaciers, natural resources and population. “These explorations seemed to confirm the existence of an open and navigable sea deep in the Arctic” (Hill 1916). Von Wrangel went on to become the Russian government’s chief administrator of Russian settlements in North America, and later president of the Russian-American Company and the Minister of the Russian Navy. He opposed the 1867 sale of Alaska to the United States. This edition is a translation from the 1839 German edition “with some abridgement of text, and the omission of meteorological tables in appendix” (Arctic Bibliography 18994). Sabine was himself an arctic explorer, having served in expeditions under John Ross and Edward Parry; the text of this edition was translated by Sabine’s wife Elizabeth. The Russian edition, with the title Expedition Along the North Siberian Coast and in the Arctic Sea during the Years 1820-1824, was not published until 1841. Fitzgerald 760. Ex-library, with library bookplate. Bookseller ticket.
Light soiling and finger marks to text, with embrowning of preliminary and concluding leaves, including folding map. Map backed in silk. Light rubbing to binding. A near-fine copy of a scarce polar title.