Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2014 Issue

Patrick McGahern Books Offers Spectacular Collection of North West Passage and Franklin Search Material

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The Franklin and North West Passage Searches.

Patrick McGahern Books of Ottawa has released a catalogue dedicated to a spectacular collection of a specific subject: The Bertram Plimer Franklin & North West Passage Rare Book Collection. Mr. McGahern describes it this way: “While these kinds of claims are nearly always too grand or wrong or even silly, still it has to be said that this, to date, is the greatest collection of rare books on Franklin search and the North West Passage.” It includes books McGahern describes as once in a lifetime, and some so rare most do not know they exist. Some do not even show up in standard bibliographies, making this more than just a catalogue but a bibliography of sorts. It contains 462 items, all related to Franklin, the North West Passage, or an occasional one with other Arctic connections.

 

Bertram Plimer was a freelance cameraman and film maker operating his own production company. He traveled with several Canadian prime ministers and met numerous world leaders through the course of his career. Mr. Plimer died in 2009 at the age of 81. Patrick McGahern noted that Mr. Plimer began frequenting his store in 1973. They became good friends and McGahern helped him find many of the books, but still was amazed when he discovered just how extensive the collection was. The result is a catalogue he describes as “beyond rare.”

 

The North West Passage, one of the subjects of this collection, is the elusive sea route from Europe to Asia north of Canada, through the Arctic Ocean. In the days before the Panama Canal, the shortest route from England to East Asia meant circling all the way south of South America, through the treacherous Strait of Magellan. The distance could be reduced enormously if one could sail almost due west through the Arctic Ocean. However, various islands and, naturally enough, ice made finding such a route an immense challenge. That did not stop explorers from taking up the challenge, nor England from offering for centuries great rewards to whomever found it. It would not be until the opening of the Panama Canal early in the 20th century that the need for such a route would diminish. Today, exploration of the area is readily accomplished and while such a route was eventually found, there is no route that is practical for a significant amount of commercial shipping. The season, if there is one, is too short to be of much use, though melting of Arctic ice may make it somewhat more practical in the future.

 

One of those who attempted to find such a route was Rear-Admiral Sir John Franklin. Franklin led several Arctic expeditions, the last an 1845 search for a North West Passage from which he never returned. His disappearance was a mystery. It resulted in one of the largest manhunts in British naval history. After the British began to lose hope, Franklin's widow commissioned several expeditions on her own to find her missing husband. It would not be until over a decade later that artifacts from the Franklin expedition would be found. They revealed that he had become trapped in ice, and with limited supplies, the men attempted to escape over ice and land. Unfortunately, they all succumbed to the elements and starvation before finding civilization.

 

Now, we will take a look at just a few of the many items to be found in this catalogue/bibliography.

 

One of those who came closest to finding a North West Passage over the years was William Parry. He led an expedition in 1819 that continued where Ross had turned back and made it farther west than any before. They were aided by it being an unusually mild year. Still, the ice came, and they were forced to winter over. Parry showed that it was possible to survive winter in the far north, so as to be prepared to continue when the next summer finally melted some of the ice again. However, they were not freed from the winter ice until the following August, and after proceeding a bit father west, they realized they needed to turn around and head home before it was too late. Parry would make two more attempts to find a passage, with less success, but he also made an assault on the North Pole which, while also not successful, did take him farther north than anyone had traveled before. Item 323 is Parry's account of his first voyage, Journal of a Voyage of Discovery of a North-West Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific: performed in the years 1819-20...under the orders of William Edward Parry... published in 1821. Priced at $1,500.

 

For all of the unsuccessful attempts to find a North West Passage, to this day no commercially viable route to be found, it is surprising that more people did not reach the logical conclusion expressed by the anonymous writer “Scrutator” in 1824. His reasonably titled book is The Impracticability of a North-West Passage for Ships, Impartially Considered. He reached the obvious conclusion that there was simply too much ice in the Arctic Ocean for there to be a practical route to the east that far north. Item 419. $5,000.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Keep Calm and Carry On</i>, designer unknown, 1939. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, <i>Le Journal / La Traite des Blanches</i>, 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>"Let Us Go Forward Together,"</i> designer unknown, 1940. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Babylone d'Allemagne</i>, 1894. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Frank Beatty, <i>Out of the Running</i>, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Wake Up America Day</i>, 1917. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Danté / Sim • Sala • Bim!</i>, designer unknown. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>[Zodiac]</i>, 1900. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Rick Griffin, <i>Jimi Hendrix Experience / John Mayall</i>, 1968. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Abram Games, <i>Join the ATS</i>, 1941. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Aldo Mazza, <i>Torino / Esposizione Internazionale</i>, 1911. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Robert Motherwell, <i>Julliard School / Dedication - Lincoln Center</i>, 1969. $3,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.

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