Berlin: Wilhelm Susserot, 1910. First German edition. Hardcover. This strikingly handsome set is the three volume German first edition of Ernest Shackleton’s account of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909, also known as the Nimrod expedition. The three volumes are in near-fine condition. The attractive bindings all feature the same front cover and spine illustrations, two of the volumes in the publisher’s original green cloth, the third and final in the publisher’s blue. All three bindings are square, clean, bright, and tight, with no appreciable toning, as evidenced by the absence of discernible color shift between the covers and spines. Wear is minor, primarily confined to extremities. The corners are sharp save for a lower front corner bump to the first volume. The only scuff of note is a .25 inch abrasion to the upper edge of the first volume front cover.
The contents are clean with minor age toning to the page edges. Trivial spotting is confined to the page edges and prelims of the first two volumes. The green and blue-stained top edges retain strong, unfaded color. The publisher’s decorative endpapers are intact. All three volumes are profusely illustrated with photographs, color plates, in-text illustrations, and maps. The folding map and panorama in the rear map pocket of the second volume are present and neatly folded, with only a .5 inch tear within the map’s blank margin. The third volume includes the publisher’s bright pink corrections slip laid in.
Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), iconic figure of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, participated in four major expeditions, three of which he led, living – and eventually dying - in relentless pursuit of discovery. Shackleton’s first trip to the Antarctic on Scott’s 1901-1903 Discovery Expedition ended poorly as scurvy sent him home on a relief ship. After convalescence, marriage, and a few failed business schemes, Shackleton conceived an Antarctic expedition with the goal of reaching both poles, magnetic and geographical. Despite its name, his so called British Antarctic Expedition was underfunded and lacked either governmental or institutional support.
The expedition set sail on the Nimrod, an aging, converted whaling vessel, in August 1907. After wintering on Ross Island, Shackleton set out for the geographic south pole on 29 October 1908. Shackleton’s team of four men made it further than any preceding expedition, ascending ten thousand feet above their starting point into the Transantarctic Mountains and planting the British flag on the polar plateau. But the journey took its toll. Shackleton wrote in his diary “death stalks us from behind… We are so thin that our bones ache as we lie on the hard snow”.
Characteristic of the concern and sacrifice for his men that would make his later, Endurance expedition famous, on 9 January 1909 Shackleton turned back 97 miles from the pole. Nonetheless, Shackleton’s team contributed to scientific and geographic knowledge of the South Pole. The expedition was the first to ascend Mount Erebus. His men were the first to stand on the polar plateau. His expedition’s second team, led by Edgeworth David, reached the magnetic South Pole, having endured their own privations and hardship. And every one of the men who set out on the expedition returned home.
Shackleton’s return to England brought public acclaim and a knighthood and set the stage for the future expeditions that would enrich the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, immortalize Shackleton, and ultimately claim his life. A veteran of the Nimrod expedition later wrote, "[Robert Falcon] Scott for scientific method, [Roald] Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton". Shackleton was knighted for the scientific advances contributed by the Nimrod expedition, and he would go on to lead two more expeditions to Antarctica, dying of a heart attack on his last Southward journey. Item #004697