One hundred years after his death, a rare book signed by adventurer and polar hero Ernest Shackleton has been unearthed by an intrepid librarian from the unfathomable depths of the Senate Library at the University of London.
Shackleton’s fame already equaling that of his rivals, Captain Robert Scott and Roald Amundson, The Heart of Antarctica was a best seller when published in 1909. To capitalize on this success, Shackleton’s publishers asked Shackleton to sign 300 copies of a deluxe edition, which were sold on a “first come, first served” to wealthy collectors.
Today, a hundred years after Shackleton’s untimely death on South Georgia Island, a copy of the signed edition was discovered by library staff member Suzanne Canally while working on d old library cards used to catalog items before the introduction of computers.
“I was looking through the archives in anticipation of a possible exhibition at the library, to find titles belonging to the university and related to Shackleton,” says Suzanne. “The book had been carefully described on a card, and the book kept in a very safe place, but had never been described on the electronic catalog, so we basically didn’t know we owned it.”
Richard Espley, Modern Collections Manager, adds: “In 1980, when we bought our first computer, we had to rewrite over a million volumes, and some of them were just missed due to the magnitude of the task. However, the call number on the old card catalog for this item was still valid and it was retrieved by the Special Collections colleagues without any problems.
Although he survived the expedition described in The Heart of Antarctica, Shackleton’s subsequent expeditions were unhappy. In 1914 Shackleton’s ship Endurance was crushed by the ice, and he traveled 720 miles across the seas of the South Atlantic to find help, an adventure that made him even more famous. He died on South Georgia Island in 1922 while again traveling to the frozen South.
“The book includes the signature of every member of the shore crew who made the trip,” explains Suzanne. “Ink stains on the back of the page seem to show the haste with which each copy was signed. It makes you feel a sense of connection through the years to a very different time – yet a time when, like today, signed copies of books seem to be worth more to collectors.
. book rare signed by the explorer polar Shackleton found in library university