The Arctic Regions. Illustrated with photographs taken on an expedition to Greenland by William Bradford. With descriptive narrative by the artist
by BRADFORD, William (1823-1892)
London: Chiswick Press for Sampson, Low, Marston, Low and Searle, 1873. Large folio. (23 7/8 x 19 inches). Mounted on linen guards throughout, half-title, title in red and black, dedication leaf. 141 mounted albumen prints from wet collodion negatives, by John Dunmore & George Critcherson (one as a vignette on the title, one double-page, 24 full-page and 115 of various sizes on the text). Original brown publisher's morocco by Leighton, Son & Hodge, after a design by Bradford, the covers elaborately blocked in gilt and black with a large centrally-placed vignette, titled "The Arctic Regions" within elaborate neo-gothic floral borders and panels, expertly rebacked to style, the spine in six sections with raised bands, marbled endpapers, gilt edges, edges and joints expertly repaired. Housed in an oatmeal cloth box, morocco lettering piece. The greatest of all the illustrated books on the Arctic and a major photographically-illustrated book. American marine painter William Bradford, inspired by Elisha Kane and Lord Dufferin's accounts of the Arctic, spent five seasons between 1861 and 1867 sketching along the coast of Labrador. In 1869, with the patronage of Le Grand Lockwood, he sailed as far north as Baffin Island and Melville Bay on a purpose-built arctic steamer The Panther, commanded by Captain John Bartlett and manned by a hand-picked Newfoundland crew. The expedition took place during the summer of 1869 "solely for the purposes of art", although Bradford and his companions did find time for hunting (see photograph facing p.64). Bradford sketched and drew, and, according to recent scholarship, possibly took some of the photographs. Technical advice on the running of the expedition was provided by Dr. Isaac Hayes, an old Arctic-hand, who had first gone North with Elisha Kane's expedition of 1853-1855. Accompanying Bradford were photographers John Dunmore and George Critcherson, from the well-regarded James Wallace Black Studio in Boston. "The three-month summer trip to the far North was a complete success. Not only did the expedition yield Bradford enough sketches and photographs to furnish him with motifs for years, but the published account of the journey became one of the nineteenth century's most spectacular photographically illustrated travel books ... The book was subsidized by Queen Victoria herself, along with several other members of the British Royal family, and there is no doubt that the volume is one of the most sumptuous of the century" (Parr and Badger). Looking at the photographs it is easy to imagine the hardships that this pair must have endured. Using relatively primitive large-format plate cameras in highly hostile conditions, Dunmore and Critcherson managed to capture the majestic beauty of the region. As Bradford wrote in his preface "They were indefatigable in their efforts to overcome the obstacles which were constantly presented, and which appeared really to have no end." Their photographs "may be counted not only amongst the earliest, but also the best polar photographs ... they conveyed both the harsh grandeur of the landscape through which they travelled, and the rigours of polar travel. They also contributed to, indeed largely invented, that staple of Arctic expedition photography, the tiny ship struggling through towering sheets of ice -- the classic, but nevertheless compelling cliche of man against the elements" (Parr and Badger). Although no limitation is given, fewer than 300 copies of the work are thought to have been published. Contemporary advertisements reveal that even with the patronage received the publisher's price was an extraordinary 25 guineas. Of the extant examples, the large work is often found in very poor condition, with significant edge fading, as well as offsetting from facing images. The present set, from the library of noted collector Richard Manney, is in lovely condition, with strong contrasts and colors to the images. Parr & Badger, I, p. 31; Amherst/Shepard, American Painters of the Arctic (1975) pp. [9-10], no.34; Gernsheim Incunabula of British Photography (1984) 570; Grolier Truthful Lens 24; Van Haaften Original Sun Pictures NYPL Bulletin 80 (1977) 258. See also Horch Photographs and Paintings of William Bradford , The American Art Journal 5 (1973) 195-216.
(Inventory #: 31760)
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