One of the 280 deluxe edition copies of James Murray and George Marston’s 'Antarctic Days, or Sketches of the Homely side of Polar Life' of 1913. Sold at NZ£9000 (£4640) at Art + Object of Auckland, it is signed by the authors – a biologist and artist respectively – as well as by Ernest Shackleton, the leader of the Nimrod expedition of 1907-09.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

On April 11 Art + Object (20% buyer’s premium) of Auckland offered books from the library of Antarctic historian and explorer Richard Reaney.

The stand-out lot – and one that accounted for close on half the total raised by this 270-lot sale – was a copy of Aurora Australis.

Edited by Ernest Shackleton and illustrated with 11 lithographs by George Marston, this celebrated work was produced on the former’s 1907-09 Nimrod expedition and was the first book to be printed and published in Antarctica.

To keep his men occupied during the winter months, and inspired by similar work he had done on an earlier Scott expedition, Shackleton asked his men to contribute stories, poems or humorous essays.

This time, using a small press donated to the expedition by Causton & Sons, along with paper and type, they were able to print the resultant work while still in Antarctica. The printing itself was done by Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild, both of whom had taken a short printing course prior to their departure for the frozen south.

In their chilly quarters, a hut at Cape Royds, the ink had to be heated by candles and much of the printing done when other expedition members were sleeping, so as to minimise vibration.

The boards of the binding were made from empty wooden packing cases that still bear stencilled letter evidence of their original contents and backed in leather that had previously served as harnesses for the expedition horses.

A total of 80 copies were eventually bound up and brought back from Antarctica, and the Art & Object example bears an inscription reading “With the Comps. and Kind regards of Monkshood” that is believed to be in the hand of Shackleton, who was known to favour the use of pseudonyms.

This copy sold at NZ$130,000 (£67,010), but the record remains with Sotheby’s, who in 2015 sold a copy in Franklin Brook-Hitching’s great travel library for £98,000.

Major expeditions

Sold at NZ$8500 (£4380) was a typescript version of a diary kept by James ‘Scotty’ Paton, a seasoned Antarctic hand who had taken part in several major expeditions before in 1914-17 serving as boatswain on the SY Aurora, a support vessel on Shackleton’s last major expedition.

Paton also took part in the expedition to retrieve those members of the crew who, after the loss of the Endurance, had been left on Elephant Island while Shackleton made his epic open boat voyage to South Georgia to get assistance.

Paton was on the Aurora once again when it was lost with all hands on a delivery voyage to a new owner in Chile.

Objects as well as books were part of this collection, among them an aneroid barometer used on Scott’s Discovery expedition of 1901-04, which made NZ$4100 (£2115).