ARCTIC BLUE BOOKS.
Extensive collection of 19th-century British Parliamentary papers relating to Arctic exploration. 42 articles bound in six volumes. Large 4to (330 x 200 mm). Variously illustrated with maps, plates and tables. Period brown cloth,spines gilt-lettered. Some covers started, scattered few repairs, spine cloth chipped on one, bookplates and shelf numbers on spines of Lynn Public Library.
FIRST EDITIONS OF A SUBSTANTIAL COLLECTION OF ARCTIC BLUE BOOKS: THE SINGLE-MOST IMPORTANT PRIMARY SOURCE FOR ARCTIC STUDIES. The present set, including 38 of the 46 items listed in the Arctic Bibliography, as well as two not listed there, represents by far the most comprehensive run we have been able to locate for public sale. Given that these papers were published as part of the Parliamentary Papers, over 50,000 items most of which concerned matters not related to Exploration (let alone the Arctic), it is unsurprising that nearly a century passed before an index of the Arctic papers was produced. These Arctic papers can be said to be at the opposite end of a spectrum from the more populist first person narratives prone to self-promotion and sensationalism; here we have reports submitted to the Authorities rather than the eager public. In addition to the expected accounts of voyages, geographical and topographical information, significant space is given to the practical business of exploration (preserved meats, preventing scurvy, etc). A wide range of illustrations printed in a variety of means complement many volumes. It is difficult to sum up the breadth of information included, but there is significant detail on the Franklin expedition and subsequent searches, including detailed lists of artifacts found as well as conflicting accounts of Franklin and his crews demise. Later reports detail George Strong Nares' Challenger expedition, a landmark in the history of undersea exploration.
Lieut. Commander R.T. Gould, R.N., has written of the Arctic Blue Books as follows: "They are a most singular collection. A complete set [of the Arctic Blue Books] would rival in bulk the four Shakespeare Folios, and contain even more words, of all kinds, than the minutes of the Royal Oak court-martial (happily left unprinted). Nothing like selection appears to have been attemptedevery scrap of paper that found its way into official channels, from the most valuable hydrographic and other information down to begging letters and mediumistic ravings, was sure to be cast up in one of these Blue Books, in an order partly chronological, largely fortuitous, and, as a whole, defying analysis. In many cases the Blue Books must now be regarded as the best procurable authorities, the original documents from which they were compiled being no longer extantbut they are by no means easy reading, and probably never were, even in their heyday, widely read" (Gould, 1928, p. 87).
References: Taylor, Andrew. British Parliamentary Papers on Exploration in the Canadian Arctic.... Reprinted from Arctic Bibliography vol. VIII. (AB in list below).
Staton, Frances M. and Marie Tremaine. A Bibliography of Canadiana. Toronto Public Library, 1934. (TPL in list below). Note that on items 29 and 30 there is disagreement on plate count, etc. Presumably other discrepancies will exist.