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BYRD, Richard E.


Published: New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938

Stock code: 106610

Price: £1,250

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This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First edition, signed limited issue, of Byrd’s autobiography; number 122 of 225 copies signed by the author on the limitation page and printed on rag paper. Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888-1957) graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1912. “In 1919 he took charge of the navigational aspects of the navy’s first transatlantic flight … In 1925 he commanded the naval unit of the D. B. MacMillan expedition to Greenland and became the first to fly across the Greenland ice cap. With the experience gained … Byrd prepared himself to become the first to take an aeroplane over the North Pole” (Howgego). His team reached King’s Bay on 29th April 1926 only to find Amundsen and his team likewise preparing for a transpolar flight; “When [Amundsen’s dirigible] the Norge arrived at King’s Bay on 7th May … competition reached a new height”, though, working solidly for fourteen hours, it was Byrd’s team that were the first to get their dirigible in the air. They returned triumphantly to New York a month later and Byrd, following Amundsen’s advice, began preparing for another polar flight, this time over the South Pole. Setting out from Hoboken in August 1928, Byrd and his team travelled south and made for the Ross Ice Shelf, where they established base camp (known as “Little America”). After several preliminary reconnaissance missions, Byrd and his companions eventually reached the pole on 29th November 1929, and despite “massive turbulence” were able to circle for eleven minutes checking sextant readings. Another expedition in 1932 was likewise successful and “did much to stimulate official United States government interest in Antarctica, and in 1939 Byrd was back in the Antarctic at the head of one of most ambitious teams ever to work on the continent”. An exceptional copy of Byrd’s autobiography, rare thus.

Octavo. Original full blue morocco, raised bands millet gilt to spine forming compartments ruled in gilt, titles direct to second and fourth gilt, two-line rules to covers gilt, inner dentelles gilt, top edge gilt, blue page-marker, marbled endpapers. Title-page printed in blue and black, blue headpieces by Richard E. Harrison. A few very light markings to covers. Entirely unopened. A superb copy.

Bibliography: Howgego IV B56-57

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