Ernest Shackleton's Aurora Australis will auction at Bonhams

A rare first edition copy of Ernest Shackleton's Aurora Australis is to auction at Bonhams.

It's one of around 100 copies of the book printed by the crew of the 1907-1909 Nimrod Expedition in a makeshift cabin in Cape Royds, Antarctica.

Aurora Australis Shackleton
Shackleton and the crew of the Nimrod worked on Aurora Australis during the winter of 1908


Of these, an estimated 80 were brought back on the return trip.

The crew took a rudimentary printing press with them, which was operated while most of the men were asleep in order to reduce vibration.

The book features articles, stories and illustrations the crew worked on to while away the long days of the Antarctic winter and to keep what Shackleton called "the spectre of polar ennui" at bay.

There were actually two variants printed, a first and second state. This copy is of the second variety.  

It displays slight differences in colouring as well as an omission of Frank Wild's potentially offensive reference to five expedition backers who pulled their support before the expedition could get underway (Shackleton spotted it in the first printing and asked that it be removed).

Famously they used packing crates to bind the book, so the covers often feature the original stencils identifying the content of the crate. This example reads "B43936/ 25.1LB TINS/BRITISH".

Copies of Aurora Australis were presented to friends and backers of the expedition on the Nimrod's return to the UK in 1909.

This rare example is valued at £25,000-35,000 ($30,738-43,033).

Others have sold for as much as £43,200 ($72,578) in the past.  

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