Just as the stories of the Himalayas, the Antarctic, and the Congo are well-catalogued; there was a time when our northern wilderness, the Arctic, was also regarded in the same light as these other frontiers. Most notably, various of the old colonial powers sent expeditions northwards to find the fabled Northwest passage, or a route over the top of the world without being impeded by ice, which would revolutionize world trade. One such early volume talks of this endeavor: A Voyage of Discovery by John Ross, who made several such voyages through his life. This first account, in one volume was published in 1819 by John Murray of London, and is worth some several thousand dollars if found with all the maps and color plates intact. However, the second edition by Spottiswoode of London (published in the same year) and split into two very attractive volumes can be found for a fraction of the price at under a thousand dollars.
If first-hand account tales of derring-do and bravery occupy your collection, then you could do far worse than The Friendly Arctic by Vilhjalmur Steffanson, which recounts a five year study and exploration of the Canadian Arctic, including staying with the Copper Inuit and his ‘discovery’ of the edge of the continental shelf. Although mostly forgotten about by modern society, this weighty and attractive hardback first edition is an absolute bargain and very affordable for any student of human exploration or the Arctic, at a mere three to four hundred US dollars, and often signed by the author as well!
Then, of course we have the far other end of the spectrum: Arctic Zoology by Thomas Pennant (1784-5). This can be found in two to four volumes (depending upon the early printing) and featuring Pennant’s study of the flora and fauna of the Arctic, complete with illustrations. A hardback first edition of just the volumes making up Arctic Zoology alone (Pennant later went on to also produce A History of Quadrupeds, A Tour of Scotland and many other classics of natural history and observation) would be worth in the region of a few thousand US dollars!
Commelin, Isaak. Recueil des Voyages qui ont servi a l'etablissement et aux progres de la compagnie des Indes Orientales, Formees dans les Provinces Unies des Pais-bas.. Estienne Roger: Amsterdam (1702). Vellum spine papered boards; handwritten title on spine; Other author Rene Augustin Constantin de Renneville
De L'Isle, Guillaume. Hemisphere Septentrional pour voir plus distinctement Les Terres Arctiques. Paris (1714). Engraved double-page map; period hand colouring in outline
Pennant, Thomas. Arctic Zoology. Henry Hughs: London (1784). 2 volumes; 2 engraved title vignettes, 2 folding engraved linen-backed maps and 24 engraved plates (incl. frontis., 1 folding)
Forster, John Reinhold. History of the Voyages and Discoveries Made in the North. Luke White: Dublin (1786). Translated by John Reinhold Forster
Hearne, Samuel. A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean. A. Strahan and T. Cadell: London (1795).
MacKenzie, Alexander. Voyages From Montreal. A. Strahan and T. Cadell: London (1801). 3 engraved folding maps, including one showing Mackenzie's route hand-coloured in outline; Full title-Voyages From Montreal, On the River St. Laurence, Through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans
Ross, John. A Voyage of Discovery. John Murray: London (1819). Full title-A Voyage of Discovery Made Under the Orders of the Admiralty in His Majesty's Ships Isabella and Alexander for the Purpose of Exploring Baffin's Bay and Inquiring into the Probability of a North-West Passage
Parry, William Edward. Journal of a Voyage. John Murray: London (1821). Full title-Journal of a Voyage for the Discovery of A North- West Passage From the Atlantic To The Pacific; original marbled boards
Fisher, Alexander. A Journal of a Voyage of Discovery to the Arctic Regions. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London (1821). Full title-A Journal of a Voyage of Discovery to the Arctic Regions, in His Majesty's Ships Hecla and Griper, in the Years 1819 and 1820
Franklin, John. Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea. John Murray: London (1823). Full title-Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21, and 22; 30 plates, engraved by Edward Finden and J.Curtis after drawings by Curtis, George Back and Robert Hood (11 hand-coloured - 9 of these aquatints). 4 folding engraved maps
Franklin, John. Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea. John Murray: London (1824). 2 volumes; Second edition; Full title-Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the Years 1819, 20, 21, and 22
Lyon, George F. The private journal of H.M.S. Hecla. John Murray: London (1824). Full title-The private journal of H.M.S. Hecla, during the recent voyage of discovery under Captain Parry
Parry, William Edward. Journal of a second voyage. John Murray: London (1824). Full title-Journal of a second voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific; performed in the years 1821-22-23
Lyon, George F. The private journal of H.M.S. Hecla. John Murray: London (1825). 2nd edition; Full title-The private journal of H.M.S. Hecla, during the recent voyage of discovery under Captain Parry
Franklin, John. Narrative Of A Second Expedition To The Shores Of The Polar Sea. John Murray: London (1828). Engraved by Edward Finden after drawings by George Back and E.N.Kendall; 6 folding engraved maps (1 partly coloured in outline); Full title-Narrative Of A Second Expedition To The Shores Of The Polar Sea, In The Years 1825, 1826, And 1827
Beechey, Frederick William. Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Beering's Strait. Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley: London (1831). 2 volumes
Ross, John. Narrative of a Second Voyage. A.W. Webster: London (1835). 2 volumes; Full title-Narrative of a Second Voyage in Search of a North West Passage and of a Residence in the Arctic Regions during the Years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833; Other author James Clarke Ross
Huish, Robert. The Last Voyage of Capt. Sir John Ross. John Saunders: London (1835). Full title-The Last Voyage of Capt. Sir John Ross Knt. R.N. To the Arctic Regions for the Discovery of a North West Passage
Back, George. Narrative of the Arctic land Expedition. E.L.Carey and A.Hart: Philadelphia (1836). Full title-Narrative of the Arctic land Expedition to the Mouth of a Great Fish River, and Along the Shores of the Arctic Ocean in the Years 1833, 1834 and 1835
Back, George. Narrative of the Arctic land Expedition. John Murray: London (1836). First U.K. Edition; 250 copies; Full title-Narrative of the Arctic land Expedition to the Mouth of a Great Fish River, and Along the Shores of the Arctic Ocean in the Years 1833, 1834 and 1835
Back, George. Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror. John Murray: London (1838). Full title-Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, undertaken with a view to Geographical Discovery on The Arctic Shores, in the years 1836-7
Beechey, Frederick William. A Voyage of Discovery Towards the North Pole. Richard Bentley: London (1843).
Ross, John. A voyage of discovery and research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions. John Murray: London (1847). 2 volumes; contemporary half vellum gilt; Full title-A voyage of discovery and research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, during the years 1839-43; Illustrated by R. Carrick and T. Picken after J. Daym
Rundall, Thomas. Narratives of Voyages Towards the North-west. Hakluyt Society: London (1849). Full title-Narratives of Voyages Towards the North-west, in Search of a Passage to Cathay And India. 1496-1631
Browne, William Henry. Ten Coloured Views taken during the Arctic Expedition. Ackermann and Co.: London (1850). 10 tinted lithographs by Charles Hague after drawings by W.H. Browne on 7 sheets; old half vellum over marbled boards; Full title- Ten Coloured Views taken during the Arctic Expedition of Her Majesty's Ships Enterprise and Investigator, under the Command of Captain Sir James C. Ross
Osborn, Sherard. Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London (1852). First U.K. Edition; Full title-Stray Leaves from an Arctic Journal; or, Eighteen Months in the Polar Regions in search of Sir John Franklin's Expedition, in the years 1850-51
Hooper, William H. Ten Months Among The Tents of The Tuski. John Murray: London (1853). Full title-Ten Months Among The Tents of The Tuski, with Incidents of an Arctic Boat Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, as Far as the Mackenzie River, and Cape Bathurst
Belcher, Edward. The Last of the Arctic Voyages. Lovell Reeve: London (1855). 2 volumes; Notes on the Natural History, by Sir John Richardson, Professor Owen, Thomas Bell, J.W.Salter, and Lovell Reeve
Kane, Elisha Kent. Arctic Explorations. Childs and Peterson: Philadelphia (1856). 2 volumes
Osborn, Sherard. The Discovery of the North-West Passage by H.M.S. Investigator,. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London (1856). Edited by Commander Sherard Osborn from the Log and Journals of Capt. Robert Le M. M'Clure; Illustated by Commander S.Gurney Cresswell; Full title-The Discovery of the North-West Passage by H.M.S. Investigator, Capt. R. M'Clure, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854
Kane, Elisha Kent. Arctic Explorations: The Second Grinnell Expedition In Search of Sir John Franklin. Childs and Peterson: Philadelphia (1857). 2 volumes
McDougall, George F. The Eventful Voyage Of HM Discovery Ship. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown: London (1857). Full title-The Eventful Voyage Of HM Discovery Ship 'Resolute' To The Arctic Regions In Search Of Sir John Franklin And The Missing Cruise Of HM Discovery Ships 'Erebus' And 'Terror', 1852, 1853, 1854
Scorsby, William. Journal of a Voyage to Australia and Round the World. Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts: London (1859). Edited by Archibald Smith
Payer, Julius. New lands within the Arctic circle. Macmillan and Co.: London (1876). 2 volumes; Full title-New lands within the Arctic circle : narrative of the discoveries of the Austrian ship Tegetthoff, in the years 1872-1874
Smith, D. Murray. Arctic Expeditions from British and Foreign Shores from the Earliest Times to The Expedition of 1875-76. Thomas C Jack: Edinburgh (1877).
Payer, Julius. New lands within the Arctic circle. D. Appleton and Company: New York (1877). First U.S. Edition; Full title-New Lands Within The Arctic Circle. Narrative Of The Discoveries Of The Austrian Ship Tegetthoff In The Years 1872-1874
Nares, George S. Narrative Of A Voyage To The Polar Sea During 1875-6 In H.M. Ships 'Alert' And 'Discovery'. Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington: London (1878). 2 Volumes
Leslie, Alexander. The Arctic Voyages of Adolf Erik Nordenskiold. Macmillan and Co.: London (1879). Other author Adolf Erik Nordenskiold
Nourse, J.E. Narrative Of The Second Arctic Expedition Made By Charles F.Hall. Government Printing Office: Washington (1879).
Seebohm, Henry. Siberia in Asia. John Murray: London (1882). Full title-Siberia in Asia: a visit to the valley of the Yenesay in east Siberia with description of the natural history, migration of birds, etc
DeLong, Emma. The Voyage of the Jeannette. Broughton, Mifflin and Company: Boston (1883). 2 volumes
McCormick, R. Voyages of Discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic Seas. Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington: London (1884). 2 volumes; Full title-Voyages of Discovery in the Arctic and Antarctic Seas, and Round the World: Being Personal Narratives of Attempts to Reach the North and South Poles; and of an Open-Boat Expedition Up the Wellington Channel in Search of Sir John Franklin
Greely, Adolphus. Three Years of Arctic Service an account of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York (1886). 2 volumes
Nansen, Fridtjof. The First Crossing of Greenland. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London (1890). 2 volumes
Pike, Warburton. Through the Subarctic Forest. Edward Arnold: London (1896). Full title-Through the Subarctic Forest. A Record of a Canoe Journey from Fort Wrangel to the Pelly Lakes and down the Yukon River to the Behring Sea
Nansen, Fridtjof. Farthest North. Harper and Brothers: New York (1897). First U.S. Edition; 2 volumes; Other author Otto Neumann Sverdrup
Sola, A.E. Ironmonger. Klondyke: Truth and Facts of the New El Dorado. The Mining and Geographical Institute: London (1897).
Nansen, Fridtjof. Farthest North. Archibald Constable and Co: Westminster, London (1897). 2 volumes; First U.K. Edition; Other author Otto Neumann Sverdrup
Conway, William Martin. The First Crossing of Spitsbergen. J.M. Dent and Co: London (1897). Full title-The First Crossing of Spitsbergen Being an Account of an Island Journey of Exploration and Survey, with Description of Several Mountain Ascents, of Boat Expeditions in Ice Fjord; Other authors J.W. Gregory, A. Trevor-Battye and E.J. Garwood
Nansen, Fridtjof. Farthest North. George Newnes, LTD: London (1898). 2nd edition; 2 volumes
Peary, Robert E. Northward over the Great Ice. Methuen and Co.: London (1898). 2 volumes; Full title-Northward over the Great Ice : a narrative of life and work along the shores and upon the interior ice-cap of Northern Greenland in the years 1886 and 1891-1897
Jackson, Frederick G. A Thousand Days in the Arctic. Harper: New York (1899). 2 volumes; First U.S. Edition; Preface by F.L. McClintock; Illustrated by R. W. Macbeth, A.R.A. Clifford Carleton, Harry C. Edwards, and F. W. Frohawk
Amedeo, Luigi. On the Polar Star in the Arctic Sea. Hutchinson and Co.: London (1903). 2 volumes; First U.K. edition; Translated by William Le Queux
Sverdrup, Otto. New Land: Four Years in the Arctic Regions. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London (1904). 2 volumes; Translated from the Norwegian by Ethel Harriet Hearn
Fiala, Anthony. Fighting the Polar Ice. Doubleday, Page and Co: New York (1906).
Peary, Robert E. Nearest the Pole A Narrative of the Polar Expedition of the Peary Arctic Club in the S.S.Roosevelt. Doubleday, Page and Co: New York (1907).
Peary, Robert E. Nearest the Pole A Narrative of the Polar Expedition of the Peary Arctic Club in the S.S.Roosevelt. Hutchinson and Co.: London (1907). First U.K. Edition
Amundsen, Roald. The Northwest Passage. Archibald Constable: London (1908). First U.K. Edition; 2 volumes
Shackleton, E.H. The Heart of the Antarctic, Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909. William Heinemann Ltd.: London (1909). Introduction by Hugh Robert Mill
Peary, Robert E. The North Pole: The Discovery in 1909 Under the Auspices of the Peary Arctic Club. Frederick A. Stokes: New York (1910). Limited Edition; Foreward by Gilbert H. Grosvenor; Introduction by Theodore Roosevelt; Illustrated by 8 hand colored photographs and a color map projection
Sheldon, Charles. The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon. T. Fisher Unwin: London (1911). First U.K. Edition
Nansen, Fridtjof. In northern mists : Arctic exploration in early times. William Heinemann: London (1911). 2 Volumes; Translated by Arthur G. Chater
Henson, Matthew A. A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. Frederick A. Stokes Company: New York (1912).
Mikkelsen, Ejnar. Lost in the Arctic: Being the Story of the 'Alabama' Expedition. William Heinemann: London (1913). First U.K. edition
Mawson, Douglas. The Home Of The Blizzard. J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia (1915). 2 Volumes; First U.S. edition; Full title-The Home Of The Blizzard: Being The Story of The Australasian Antarctic Expedition
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur. The Friendly Arctic. The Macmillan Company: New York (1921). Signed edition; Full title-The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions
Rasmussen, Knud. Across Arctic America: Narrative of the Fifth Expedition. G.P. Putnam's Sons: New York (1927).
Kent, Rockwell. N by E: A Record of Expeditioning North-By-East Across Baffin Bay and Beyond. Brewer and Warren: New York (1930). Signed edition
Arctic Institute of North America. Arctic Bibliography. Department of Defense: Washington, D.C. (1953). 3 Volumes: Prepared for and in cooperation with The Department of Defense under the direction of The Arctic Institute of North America
Bockstoce, John R. American Whalers in the Western Arctic. Edward J. Lefkowicz: Fairhaven, MA (1983). 400 copies; Illustrated by William Gikerson; Signed Edition
Williams, Terry Tempest. Secret Language of Snow. Sierra Club/Pantheon Books: San Francisco (1984). Signed edition; Other author Ted Major