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BRADFORD, William.

The Arctic Regions.

Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition to Greenland … with Descriptive Narrative by the Artist.

London: Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle, 1873 Stock Code: 94428
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"I was seized with a desire... to... study Nature under the terrible aspects of the Frigid Zone"

First and only edition of this highly uncommon and highly desirable Arctic record, one of perhaps as few as 300 copies. The book forms a record of the last of seven voyages to Labrador and Greenland that Bradford sponsored or participated in during the 1860s: "all early examples of what one might call 'eco-art tourism'" (Books on Ice).

Bradford was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts in 1823, and established himself as a painter of ship portraits in Lynn and other local harbours, his work being characterised by its "correctness and carefulness" (Dictionary of American Biography). From this he progressed to coastal studies, gradually moving northwards up the New England and Canadian coasts, and thence, inspired by the recently published accounts of the Franklin search expeditions, to the Arctic. "I was seized with a desire, which had become uncontrollable, to visit the scenes they had described and study Nature under the terrible aspects of the Frigid Zone" (quoted in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography).

Between 1861 and 1867 he carried out a series of annual expeditions "along the coasts of Nova Scotia and Labrador for the purpose of painting northern scenery and icebergs", and in 1869 he obtained the support of broker and railroad baron Le Grand Lockwood to fit out the Scottish steamship Panther for his most ambitious voyage yet. His party of 40 included John Bartlett, the son of the owner of the ship, who later captained for Peary, Dr Isaac Hayes, who had served under Kane, and two photographers, John B. Dunmore and George B. Critcherson, from the leading Boston photographic studio of James William Black. Departing from St John's on 3 July, the party sailed as far north as Baffin Island and Melville Bay, Greenland, and Bradford "returned with a collection of photographs and a vast number of sketches of the rugged landscape and the details of Inuit life". He was later to say that this vast archive of photographs had saved him "eight or ten voyages to the Arctic regions, now I gather my inspirations from my photographic subjects just as an author gains food from his library. I could not paint without them" (quoted by Horch).

In the early 1870s Bradford settled in London, setting up a studio which attracted considerable aristocratic patronage (his most important commission came from Queen Victoria, the painting entitled "The Panther off the Coast of Greenland under the Midnight Sun" which was hung in the library of Windsor Castle), enjoying a second career as a lecturer on the Arctic, and in 1873 publishing the present volume; "no doubt one of the most sumptuous of the century one of the nineteenth century's most spectacular photographically illustrated travel books" (Parr & Badger). The technical problems that attended the handling of wet-plate negatives under extreme conditions makes the quality of Dunmore and Critcherson's images all the more remarkable, being "counted not only amongst the earliest, but also the best polar photographs".

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Large folio (618 x 498 mm). Original brown morocco elaborately gilt, marbled endpapers. Housed in an oatmeal cloth folding case.


Title page in red and black and with mounted albumen print, 140 further mounted albumen prints, 115 of them mounted in the text and 25 as inserted plates within printed borders on card mounts with letterpress captioning, including one double-page plate, m


Skilfully rebound with the elaborately stamped leather from the original binding mounted on the front board and spine, somewhat rubbed, occasional marginal dampstaining and finger-soiling, title leaf with paper repair at head not affecting text, one leaf loose from its stub, some fading to the mounted photographs, but the majority still fairly strong, overall a good copy of this magnificent though somewhat fragile production.


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