Entry describing Aurora Australis from


by Michael H. Rosove. (Santa Monica, California: Adélie Books, 2001)

ISBN 0-9705386-0-X.

Used here by kind permission of the author.




304. [Shackleton, Ernest Henry (1874-1922), editor.] Aurora Australis.


1st edition.

304.A1.    Published at the / winter quarters of the British / Antarctic Exped / ition, 1907, during / the winter mon / ths of April, May, / June, July, 1908. / Illustrated with / lithographs and / etchings; by / George Marston[.] Printed at the sign of / ‘The Penguins’; by Joyce / and Wild. / Latitude 77°..32’ South / longitude 166°..12’ East / Antarctica[.] [Binding by Bernard Day.] Approximately 27.3 x 19.7 x 4.0 cm, bound with venesta packing crate boards composed of layered, cemented hardwoods, beveled on all edges, leather from horse harnesses used to form the spine and inner front and rear hinges, and green silk cord run through a pair of holes punched in the leaves and leather hinges, leather spine with blind stamped title and the sign of the penguins, all edges uncut. 95 unpaginated printed leaves [including frontispiece, text, plate titles, 11 illustrations (some tipped in)], plus blank leaves [variable number]. —— Spence 1095, Renard 1435, Conrad p. 146. At most 100 copies were produced,[1] but probably signiřcantly fewer.[2] Approximately 65 copies have been accounted for to date. At this time, about half are in museums and permanent institutional collections, and half are in private hands. Rare. The trademark is a 17 x 17 mm stamp depicting two penguins in an Antarctic scene within a border. All printing is in black ink except the aurora on the title page (blue), text and plate titles with trademark (red), and the illustration “Struggle? for the Broom” (brown). The venesta crates often had the contents or other inscriptions stencilled on the boards. Thus the boards may show words, or portions of words, such as “Butter”, “Bottled Fruit”, “Irish Stew”, “Antarctic”, etc.[3]

a. With the řnal printed leaf (leaf 95), “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” —— By the time Millard was aware of 56 copies of Aurora Australis, he stated that this leaf existed “in only a few copies”.[4] The plate itself is not known to exist.[5]

b. Without the řnal printed leaf, “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” —— Copies: Hunt, 1, 12, 43.

c. The illustration “Many Shekels Were Needed for the Ship To Go Forth.” (leaf 63 verso) is replaced by duplicate text[6] (that of leaf 63 recto[7]); without the řnal printed leaf “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” —— Renard 1436. Rare variant. Copies: 3, 16.

d. Missing one or more printed leaves, as produced.[8]


95 unpaginated leaves [The sequencing of pages varies, particularly the title sheets for the illustrations. Recto and verso separated by semicolon. The plate title “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” (leaf 95) is included. Blank leaves are excluded.]


1 [title and frontispiece, blue sky and aurora]; [blank]; 2 [publisher’s and printer’s identiřcations, with red trademark]; [blank]; 3 [dedication to Miss Dawson-Lambton and Miss Elizabeth Dawson-Lambton]; [blank]; 4 [preface, by E. H. Shackleton] Some . . . interest; I . . . Northland; 5 [additional preface by E. H. Shackleton] Since . . . by; Marston . . . Winter [trademark]; 6 [contents]; [blank]; 7 [blank]; [plate] Under the Shadow of Erebus; 8 [text title page] The Ascent of Mount Erebus. ; [blank]; 9 [text] The Ascent of Mount Erebus, by T. W. Edgeworth David, Erebus . . . show; Erebus . . . with; 10 steep . . . the; way. . . . bags; 11 tents . . . for; them . . . loose; 12 snow . . . bis-; cuit . . . rein-; 13 deer . . . and; oldest . . . bags; 14 hanging . . . the; top . . . and; 15 all . . . storm; When . . . which; 16 at . . . scooped; out . . . being; 17 able . . . a; spot . . . which; 18 resembled . . . Ŗush-; ed . . . outlined; 19 on . . . crossed; the . . . to; 20 [blank]; [plate, title beneath] At the Edge of the Crater.; 21 incrustations . . . stood; revealed . . . to-; 22 gether . . . slope; Three . . . things; 23 they . . . career; a . . . be; 24 impending . . . steered; it . . . the; 25 shining . . . pre-; scribed . . . the; 26 sledges . . . that; throughout . . . ascent; 27 [text title] Midwinter Night.; [blank]; 28 [plate title] Night Watchman.; [blank]; 29 [plate]; [blank]; 30 [text] Midwinter Night., by Veritas [Ernest Shackleton], The . . . queer; Darling . . . pills; 31 [plate title] The Messman.; [blank]; 32 [plate]; [blank]; 33 [text] Trials of a Messman., by Messman [Raymond Priestly], Rise . . . dissatisfaction; Having . . . etc.; 34 Laying . . . and; the . . . to; 35 last . . . and; a . . . too; 36 plate title, “Struggle? for the Broom”; [blank]; 37 [plate]; [blank]; 38 sweet . . . eagerness, trademark; 39 [text title] A Pony Watch.; [blank]; 40 [blank]; [plate]; 41 [plate title] In the Stables.; [blank]; 42 [text] A Pony Watch., by Putty [George Marston], After . . . then; Chucks . . . wind; 43 blinded . . . with; difřculty . . . assistance; 44 Crash . . . begins; [blank]; 45 [plate and text title] Southward Bound.; [blank]; 46 [plate]; [blank]; 47 [text] Southward Bound., by Lapsus Linguĺ [Eric Marshall], The . . . told; On . . . swag; 48 Then . . . daughters, trademark; [blank]; 49 [text title] An Interview with an Emperor.; [blank]; 50 [text] An Interview with an Emperor., by A. F. M. [A. F. Mackay], It . . . dead; white . . . degrees; 51 below . . . and; perhaps . . . stock; 52 Under . . . an; Emperor . . . of; 53 hauteur . . . district; Oo . . . us; 54 Aye . . . to; being . . . my; 55 companion . . . orders [trademark]; [blank]; 56 [text title] Erebus.; [blank]; 57 [text] Erebus, by Nemo [Ernest Shackleton], Keeper . . . places; They . . . thine; 58 [plate title] Fourteen Good and True; [blank]; 59 [plate]; [blank]; 60 [text title] An Ancient Manuscript.; [blank]; 61 [text] An Ancient Manuscript., by Wand Erer [Frank Wild], Now . . . of; these . . . land; 62 has . . . my; fathers . . . up; 63 therein . . . should; [plate, title beneath] Many Shekels Were Needed for the Ship To Go Forth.; 64 be . . . the; city . . . eye; 65 And . . . thou; wouldest . . . in; 66 the . . . amongst; themselves . . . man; 67 And . . . banquets; And . . . the; 68 dogs . . . has; been . . . labour; 69 in . . . completed) [trademark]; [blank]; 70 [text title] Life Under Difřculties.; [blank]; 71 [text] Life Under Difřculties., by J. Murray, It . . . of; surviving . . . thrown; 72 back . . . few; minutes . . . the; 73 capability . . . hours; resume . . . water; 74 Artiřcially . . . the; lowest . . . One; 75 species . . . earth); [blank]; 76 [text title] Bathybia.; [blank]; 77 [text] Bathybia., by Douglas Mawson, A . . . greeted; our . . . were; 78 on . . . Gehenna; A . . . semi-; 79 cone . . . whither; they . . . were; 80 in . . . pretentious; examples . . . removed; 81 Already . . . alarmingly; scarce . . . weak; 82 For . . . behaviour; was . . . accommodated; 83 themselves . . . water; and . . . a; 84 volley . . . these; trying . . . in; 85 the . . . executing; evolutions . . . exercised; 86 [plate title] “Executing Evolutions in Mid Air.”; [blank]; 87 [plate] Executing Evolutions in Mid Air.; [blank]; 88 in . . . waters; swept . . . was; 89 [plate title] Each Sheltered Under One of the Novel Umbrellas.; [blank]; 90 [plate]; [blank]; 91 calculated . . . panorama); Far . . . natural; 92 history . . . aided; Although . . . active; 93 volcano . . . bags; attracted . . . how; 94 much . . . hour; [blank]; 95 [plate title] A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.; [blank].


Detailed text contents:

Shackleton, E. H. “Preface.”

Shackleton, E. H. “Additional preface.”

David, T. W. Edgeworth. “The Ascent of Mount Erebus.” [narrative account]

Veritas. [Shackleton, E. H.] “Midwinter Night.” [poem]

Messman. [Priestley, Raymond.] “Trials of a Messman.” [story]

Putty. [Marston, George.] “A Pony Watch.” [story]

Lapsus Linguĺ. [Marshall, Eric.] “Southward Bound.” [poem]

A. F. M. [Mackay, Alistair F.] “An Interview with an Emperor.” [story]

Nemo. [Shackleton, E. H.] “Erebus.” [poem]

Wand Erer. [Wild, Frank.] “An Ancient Manuscript. “[story]

Murray, J. “Life under Difřculties.” [scientiřc report]

Mawson, Douglas. “Bathybia.” [story]


[Selections from Aurora Australis were extracted for The Antarctic Book (accompanying the deluxe 1909 edition of Shackleton’s The Heart of the Antarctic, and for Murray and Marston’s Antarctic Days.]


1st facsimile edition.

304.B1.    Bluntisham Books-Paradigm Press full facsimile. Alburgh, Harleston, Norfolk: Bluntisham Books, Paradigm Press, 1986. 27.3 cm, quarter calf, plywood boards with beveled edges, edges uncut; clam shell box, blue cloth, tan cloth sides, brown paper-lined interior, red morocco title label lettered in gilt. pp. 194; 11 plates. Introductory 24-page pamphlet, by John Millard, with a preface by Lord Shackleton. 58 numbered copies [corresponding to the number of originals known to exist at the time]. —— Renard 1437, Conrad p. 146. Facsimile (including binding and collation). Contains the plate title leaf “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” Copies: 12 (copy #4, copy #26).

304.B2.    Bluntisham Books-Paradigm Press, text only in facsimile. Alburgh, Harleston, Norfolk: Bluntisham Books, Paradigm Press, 1986. 26.7 cm, tan ribbed cloth, spine lettered in gilt, front board lettered in gilt with red decoration [sign of the penguins], dust-wrapper [illustrated, blue and white]. pp. xx, (4), 192; 16 photographs and illustrations in text. —— Renard 1438, Meadows 319, Conrad p. 146. ISBN 0948285060. Common. 1,000 unnumbered copies; 955 copies sold as of January 1999.[9] Preliminaries contain the above pamphlet material. Contains the plate title “A Giant Tick Was Investigating the Carcase.” Copies: Dart, 1, 22.


2nd facsimile edition.

304.C1.   SeTo Publishing full facsimile. Auckland: SeTo Publishing, 1988. 27.3 cm, quarter leather, wood boards, leather inner hinges, bound with green cord, edges uncut; in wooden, suede-lined 29.5 cm box with two leather pieces on front [Aurora Australis, and sign of the penguins], green cord, green ribbon to lift book. pp. 212 [including blank leaves]; 11 plates; illustrated separate 24-page pamphlet, by Mary Goodwin. —— Renard 1439, Conrad p. 147. ISBN 0908697244. 375 numbered copies. Facsimile, including binding and collation. Copies: 4, 10, 12, 18.

304.C2.   SeTo Publishing text-only facsimile. Auckland: SeTo Publishing, 1988. 25.4 cm, brown papered boards, spine lettered in gilt, illustrated endpapers, dust-wrapper. pp. xxiii, (1), 181, (3), 11 plates. —— Conrad p. 147. Preliminaries contain the above pamphlet material. Pastedown endpapers contain photo reproduction from inside covers of Aurora Australis. Free endpapers contain photo reproduction of the one signature leaf, containing all 16 signatures, from The Antarctic Book (faux pas).

a. Without a colored illustration on the title-leaf verso. —— Copies: 3, 22.

b. With a colored illustration on the title-leaf verso. —— Renard 1440.

304.C3.   Bay Books text-only facsimile. Sydney, London: Bay Books, 1988. —— ISBN 1862563098. Similar to SeTo edition.

a. Without a colored illustration on the title-leaf verso. —— Renard 1441, Conrad p. 147. Copies: APL.

b. With a colored illustration on the title-leaf verso. —— Renard 1442.

304.C4.   Airlife text-only facsimile. Shrewsbury, England: Airlife Publishing, 1988. —— Renard 1443, Conrad p. 147. Similar to the SeTo edition. Copies: 16.


Shackleton loved literature, and poetry in particular. On Scott’s Discovery expedition, he had edited the řrst volume of The South Polar Times, prepared in a single copy in the Antarctic and later reproduced for the general public in a limited edition. He resolved to produce a similar work on his own expedition, but took the labor a step further: rather than produce only one copy and bring it back to civilization for production of facsimiles, the entire effort including the writing, printing, illustrating, and binding, was to be done on site in Antarctica. Thus was conceived and produced Aurora Australis—beautifully made under adverse conditions by novices to the printing and binding trades. Copies were not offered for sale to the general public; all were privately distributed, and many were signed or presented by one or more expedition members. Aurora Australis has rightfully achieved legendary status as the ne plus ultra of the Antarctic bibliography for its manner of production, rarity, charisma, and association with one of the greatest of all Antarctic expeditions.


Shackleton remarked on the production of the book in The Heart of the Antarctic:


       Joyce, Wild, Marston, and Day during the winter months spent much time in the production of the “Aurora Australis,” the řrst book ever written, printed, illustrated, and bound in the Antarctic. Through the generosity of Messrs. Joseph Causton and Sons, Limited, we had been provided with a complete printing outřt and the necessary paper for the book, and Joyce and Wild had been given instruction in the art of type-setting and printing, Marston being taught etching and lithography. They had hardly become skilled craftsmen, but they had gained a good working knowledge of the branches of the business. When we had settled down in the winter quarters, Joyce and Wild set up the little hand-press and sorted out the type, these preliminary operations taking up all their spare time for some days, and then they started to set and print the various contributions that were sent in by members of the expedition. The early days of the printing department were not exactly happy, for the two amateur typesetters found themselves making many mistakes, and when they had at last “set up” a page, made all the necessary corrections, and printed off the required number of copies, they had to undertake the laborious work of “dissing,” that is, of distributing the type again. They plodded ahead steadily, however, and soon became more skilful, until at the end of a fortnight or three weeks, they could print two pages in a day. A lamp had to be placed under the type-rack to keep it warm, and a lighted candle was put under the inking-plate, so that the ink would keep reasonably thin in consistency. The great trouble experienced by the printers at řrst was in securing the right pressure on the printing-plate and even inking of the page, but experience showed them where they had been at fault. Day meanwhile prepared the binding by cleaning, planing, and polishing wood taken from the Venesta cases in which our provisions were packed. Marston reproduced the illustrations by algraphy, or printing from aluminium plates. He had not got a proper lithographing press, so had to use an ordinary etching press, and he was handicapped by the fact that all our water had a trace of salt in it. This mineral acted on the sensitive plates, but Marston managed to produce what we all regarded as creditable pictures. In its řnal form the book had about one hundred and twenty pages, and it had at least assisted materially to guard us from the danger of lack of occupation during the polar night.[10]


Murray and Marston devoted a chapter of their book Antarctic Days to Aurora Australis, and Murray’s following remarks are of particular interest:


       The reader, contemplating the řnished work, would have no glimmering of suspicion of the immense difřculties under which the work had to be produced.

       It was winter, and dark, and cold. The work had to be done, in the intervals of more serious occupations, in a small room occupied by řfteen men, all of them following their own avocations, with whatever of noise, vibration and dirt might be incidental to them.

       The inevitable state of such a hut, after doing all possible for cleanliness, can be imagined. Fifteen men shut up together, say during a blizzard which lasts a week. Nobody goes out unless on business; every one who goes out brings in snow on his feet and clothes. Seal-blubber is burned, mixed with coal, for economy. The blubber melts and runs out on the Ŗoor; the ordinary unsweepable soil of the place is a rich compost of all řlth, cemented with blubber, more nearly resembling the soil of a whaling-station than anything else I know.

       Dust from the stove řlls the air and settles on the paper as it is being printed. If anything falls on the Ŗoor it is done for; if somebody jogs the compositor’s elbow as he is setting up matter, and upsets the type into the mire, I can only leave the reader to imagine the result.

       The temperature varies; it is too cold to keep the printer’s ink Ŗuid; it gets sticky, and freezes. To cope with this a candle was set burning underneath the plate on which the ink was. This was all right, but it made the ink too Ŗuid, and the temperature had to be regulated by moving the candle about.

       Once the printers were called away while the candle was burning, and nobody happened to notice it. When they returned they found that the plate had overheated and had melted the inking roller of gelatinous substance. I believe it was the only one on the Continent and had to be re-cast somehow.

       So much for the ordinary printing. The lithography was still worse. All the evils enumerated above persecuted the lithographer, and he had others all to himself. The more delicate part of his work could not be done when the hut was in full activity, with vibration, noise and settling smuts, so Marston used to do most of his printing in the early hours of the morning, when the hut was as nearly quiet and free from vibration as it ever became, and there was a minimum of dust (at least in suspension in the air).

       I had the opportunity of observing his tribulations, as, for similar reasons, I found the early hours best for biological study. At these hours the number of loafers round the stove (drinking tea) might be reduced to three or four, or even fewer.

       I do not pretend to know the nature of the special difřculties that the climate introduced into lithography, but I know this, that I’ve frequently seen Marston do everything right—clean, ink, and press—but for some obscure reason the prints did not come right. And I’ve seen him during a whole night pull off half a dozen wrong ones for one good print, and he did not use so much language over it as might have been expected.[11]


The work was initially to have been titled Antarctic Ice-Flowers, before the name Aurora Australis was řnally selected.[12] Nine men wrote the ten contributions. Only three men used their real names; the others used pseudonyms. The work is an anthology of personal writings and reŖections: a narrative of the řrst ascent of Mount Erebus; a poem conveying the mood in the hut at night once all are asleep but the watchman; the humorous tribulations of kitchen duty; the doleful recounting of the ponies’ plight at sea amid the gales; the voyage south in verse; an amusing encounter between two men on an evening walk and the local Scottish constable, a larger-than-life emperor penguin; reverent verse for the mighty Mount Erebus and the řrst ascent; a narrative of the expedition written in biblical style; an account of the microscopic rotifers; and řnally, a surreal dreamscape of what the South Pole might be like, below sea level and paradoxically tropical. Marston’s illustrations grace the work throughout.


Excerpts of Aurora Australis reproduced in The Antarctic Book and Murray and Marston’s Antarctic Days were not widely available owing to the scarcity of these volumes; not until the řrst public edition of 1986 did the entire work reach a wide readership.


[1]Murray and Marston, Antarctic Days (London, 1913), p. 103; Spence, p. 132 (entry 1095).

[2]John Millard, in introduction to [Shackleton], Aurora Australis (Alburgh, 1986), p. xix.

[3]Mary P. Goodwin [Mary Pearson Goodwin] (1920-1993), “The First Book Printed in the Antarctic”, Terra; The Members Magazine of The Natural History Museum Alliance at Los Angeles County 18 (no. 3) (no date, ca. 1980), pp. 19, 21.

[4]Millard, p. xix.

[5]Goodwin, pp. 14-23; Millard, pp. xvii-xviii.

[6]Millard, pp. xv, xvii.

[7]In the copy of the late Mary P. Goodwin, now in Special Collections of the Library at the University of California, Los Angeles.

[8]Millard, pp. xix.

[9]Letter, Crispin de Boos (chief executive, Erskine Press) to author, 11 January 1999.

[10]Shackleton, The Heart of the Antarctic (London, 1909), vol. I, pp. 216-18.

[11]Murray and Marston, Antarctic Days (London, 1913), pp. 105-7.

[12]Millard, p. xi.