At a Forum Auctions (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) sale of January 25 in London, three single-sheet flyers printed aboard HMS Plover, which embarked on its search for Franklin in January 1848, were on offer.
Dated October 29, 1852, one of these flyers ranks as one of the earlier examples of printing in Alaska. Produced while the ship wintered off Point Barrow, it notes that “the [Noo-wook] natives on the whole are not unfriendly, but must be dealt with cautiously to avoid surprise”.
That one made £3800, but another, printed in July 1853, reached £4500. Issuing the same warning, it was also distributed among the local Esquimaux in the hope that an example might come to the attention of members of other search expeditions on or near the coast.
The third, again printed in 1853 but dated only ‘Thursday Next’, sold at £4800. Headed ‘Great Novelty!’ it refers to a ‘Native Dance’ intended to restore good relations with their Noo-wook neighbours – in the hope that they would restore to safety any of Franklin’s men they might encounter.
First complete book printed in Alaska
The first recorded example of a complete book printed in Alaska is a Polar Almanac for... 1854 that in 2014, at Sotheby’s, made £28,000 as part of the Franklin Brooke-Hitching (FB-H) library.
One of only four known copies and in original sewn but now somewhat soiled and worn wrappers, it was printed on HMS Enterprise, another of the Franklin search vessels.
Produced by the ship’s coxswain, Henry Hester, when Enterprise was anchored in Camden Bay, it runs to 46pp and content includes a short piece on Queen Victoria, a list of the ship’s crew, details of solar bearings, lists of provision depots, anniversaries of previous polar events and a six-page account of the voyage to date.
Hester’s own copy, it contains his manuscript additions as well as later ones added by Lady Jane Franklin and Queen Emma of Hawaii.
Two of the other survivors are in the British Library and Duke University in North Carolina; the third is one that Lawrences of Crewkerne sold in 2011 as part of a larger lot.
Herald on the Franklin hunt
In the years 1845-51, HMS Herald made three Arctic cruises under Captain Kellett in search of Franklin and his men, but it was a rare account by the ship’s naturalist, Berthold Seeman, that made $18,000 (£13,430) in that December 7, Christie’s New York (25/20/12.5%) sale of the Martin Greene library.
The Botany of the Voyage..., illustrated with 99 litho plates after W Fitch and JD Hooker (one reproduced above), this was another ex-FB-H lot, one that in 2015 at Sotheby’s had made £8500.
Published in 1850 and intended specifically for use by members of the various Franklin search parties was Esquimaux and English Vocabulary for the Use of the Arctic Expeditions.
Compiled by John Washington, a founder member and secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, this little oblong format work had made £4200 in a 2008 Bonhams sale of the education library of John & Monica Lawson, but this time reached $13,000 (£9700).