Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Expeditions into Naboland

Reinhard Behrens
Twenty-five Years of Expeditions into Naboland
Roger Billcliffe Fine Art Ltd, Scotland: 2000
Illustrated in colour, 40 pages
This catalogue predates the public awareness of Behrens’ work following its appearance on the cover of Peter Davidson’s influential book The Idea of North. A good general introduction to Behrens’ early work, it reveals ‘the lost (or parallel) continent of Naboland’ [Billcliffe], an imagined landscape reminiscent of the arctic. Behrens has a background in archaeology; his works frequently combine glacial landscapes with displays of objects rescued from the ice, laid out like museum exhibits, both divorced from their surroundings and, through their shape and decrepitude indelibly linked to them. The key object in the series, a rusted toy submarine, is a real artefact dredged from a German estuary by the artist. Behrens is based in Scotland and the wild landscapes of the Cairngorms clearly influence his work. More recently, the Himalayas (‘Nabo-La’) and the Alps have been added to the toy submarine’s itinerary. This book contains contributions by art critics and creative writers such as John Glenday, Murdo MacDonald and Sally Evans, as well as Behrens himself.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Wandering Through Winter

Edwin Way Teale
Wandering Through Winter: An adventurous 20,000 mile journey through the North American winter
Illustrated with 49 black and white photographs by the author
370 pages
Dodd, Mead & Company, New York (1965)
This coast-to-coast journey, which took the author and his travelling companion Nellie from southern California to north of Caribou, Maine during the winter of 1961–2, is the predictable last instalment of a series that documents journeys in the USA during each of the four seasons. This is not nature writing elevated to the pitch of Lopez or Thoreau but rather an easy-going travelogue, Sunday-supplement style. (The author might have benefited from Thoreau’s injunction to look closely at one place rather than swiftly at many.) Nevertheless, Wandering Through Winter is included here on the strength of its representation of ice conditions in parts of North America that other writers may have overlooked in their headlong rush for the arctic regions. While not all the areas through which Teale travels experience freezing temperatures in winter, he has plentiful opportunities to observe ice, including a historic ice jam at the Alton Dam of the Mississippi, an ice storm in Indiana, and – when contemporary ice is lacking – the bones of ‘Ice Age elephants’ in Big Bone Lick. Illustrations include cataracts of ice in the Adirondacks and the snowshoe maker Charles Holway at work in Maine.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Arctic Regions

The Arctic Regions: Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition to Greenland, with a descriptive narrative by the artist
William Bradford
Edited by Michael Lapides with an introduction by Russell A Potter.
David R. Godine, Boston (in association with New Bedford Whaling Museum): 2013
Originally published in 1873 by Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle, Fleet St, London.
170 pages
A landmark in the annals of American photography and polar adventure, The Arctic Regions was first published for subscribers in 1873. No more than 300 copies of the leather-bound elephant folio (designed to emulate the dramatic scale of the views it contained) are known to have been printed. “This volume,” Bradford explains, “is the result of an expedition to the Arctic Regions, made solely for the purposes of art, in the summer of 1869.” Bradford travelled with the eminent Arctic explorer and author Dr Isaac Israel Hayes, and two photographers from Boston, John L. Dunmore and George P. Critcherson. These men were the first photographers to document such a northerly voyage, as they travelled from Newfoundland to Cape Farewell, and on up the west coast of Greenland with stops at (amongst other places) Sermitsialik Glacier, Upernavik and Melville Bay. 
This elegant new edition (on a slightly more modest scale) includes an introduction by Russell Potter which proposes Bradford as a pioneer in presenting visual images of the Arctic to the general public. Potter notes that Bradford’s photographs were shown in London a decade after the distinguished painter Frederic Edwin Church exhibited his Iceberg in 1863. The Art-Journal remarked that these photographs, by comparison, were “the only works which profess incomparable truth in the representation of the Northern regions.” (Whether this faith was justified is open to question.) Potter notes the “striking tonal range and crisp focus” of these early images, reproduced from glass collodion negative plates, and considers some of the difficulties the photographers would have experienced in pursuing this process on board ship. The accompanying text by Bradford is a typical travelogue which nonetheless shows the influence of Hayes’ deep interest in the formation of glaciers, icebergs and the movement of ice. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Iceland Breakthrough

Iceland Breakthrough
Paul Vander-Molen with Jack Vander-Molen
The Oxford Illustrated Press in Association with Channel Four Television Company: 1985
Illustrated with many photographs in full colour, and black-and-white maps.
A spirited account of a 12-man expedition along the Icelandic river Jökulsá á Fjöllum from its source as a geothermal spring under the Vatnajökull Glacier to the sea just below the Arctic Circle, which took place in Summer 1983. While much of the narrative focuses on the practicalities of travelling through dangerous and challenging terrain (used to train US astronauts prior to the moon landing) the author is not immune to its visual delights, and provides many atmospheric accounts of the impressive glacial regions through which the team passes. A section on the ice caves of Vatnajökull is of particular interest, as it recounts the first exploration by kayak of the under-ice source of Jökulsá á Fjöllum. Documentation was a priority of this expedition, which included an integral film crew employing 'point of view' camera work, resulting in excellent illustration. The Royal Geographical Society awarded Paul Vander-Molen the Ness Award in recognition of his role in this expedition.
Hardback, 140 pages, 26 cm x 21 cm

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Moonlight at Midday

Moonlight at Midday
Sally Carrighar
Michael Joseph, London: 1959
Published the same year as Elizabeth David's French Provincial CookingMoonlight at Midday is a venerable insight into a very different culture. The author was a naturalist who originally visited Alaska to spend a single year studying the environment but stayed, making her home there for a decade. The book falls into two parts, the first being an intelligent, detailed and patiently observed account of life in Unalakleet, then a small coastal settlement known for its abundance of bears, marten, mink, beavers and foxes, not to mention marine wildlife. The second part of the book, which records the author's experiences as a home-owner in Nome and Fairbanks has a more humorous bent, not without a touch of exasperation at times, and offers a vivid account of the practical challenges of living on what was then a frontier. The ice that features in the latter section tends to be within domestic water and oil pipes; it is the first part of the book that will be of most interest to the researcher of wild ice. Carrighar records the intimate knowledge of the sea ice demonstrated by Inuit and bush pilots - and describes some of her own risky winter excursions. 'It is after the ice has broken,' she notes, 'that good hunting develops, and also the insecurity.'
Hardback, 314 pages,

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Six-Cornered Snowflake

The Six-Cornered Snowflake
Johannes Kepler
Edited and Translated by Colin Hardie, with essays by L.L. Whyte and B.F.J. Mason
Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1966
Kepler’s book in its first English translation. In this ‘new year’s gift’ to his patron, the influential astronomer turns his intelligence upon the snowflake, which ‘comes from heaven and looks like a star’. Kepler’s essay provides the first published evidence, in both images and text, of the regular arrangements and close-packing which have proved fundamental to crystallography. Kepler ponders on the problem of why snowflakes are hexagonal and considers the significance of the number six, while repeatedly punning on the nature of nothing. As poetic as it is mathematical or scientific, the treatise encompasses pomegranates, honeybees, stars and Turkish baths, but keeps one foot in scientific reality, recognising that ‘to ascribe a Soul to every single starlet of snow is absurd’.
From the introduction by Whyte: ‘Water has long been regarded as the basis of much that happens in this universe and the snowflake is now recognised as an important clue to the shaping agencies of nature, both in the formation of perfect micro-structures and in the formative and destructive power of glaciers and thunderstorms.’ An illustrated essay by Mason On the Shapes of Snow Crystals looks at the subsequent study of snowflakes from Descartes to Bentley, and notes that the issue of the six-pointed snowflake was raised in China as early as 135 BC. Kepler’s text is set within the context of the history of crystallography in a helpful summary of twentieth-century ideas on the atomic arrangement of snow and ice crystals.
Hardback, 76 pages, 24 x 16 cm

Monday, 16 June 2014


Annie Bissett
Iceberg (from Secret Codewords of the NSA series)
At the height of the global scandal regarding the National Security Agency's acquisition of data, artist Annie Bissett read an article in The New York Times which mentioned the codewords that the NSA uses. She decided to do a series of prints featuring selected codewords, one for each letter of the alphabet, with each codename embossed 'in the spirit of keeping things secret'. It is surely a sign of the times that the word 'iceberg' featured among them. Bissett says that she is unsure what the codeword 'iceberg' signifies, but speculates that it may refer to the fibre-optic cables which travel under the ocean, carrying international internet traffic. Of course, the NSA revelations are often described idiomatically as 'the tip of the iceberg'. Furthermore, Bissett notes, it would appear that the NSA monitored the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, giving US negotiators advance information on other governments' positions. (Notably, world leaders failed to agree a deal on climate change at this summit.)
Six colours and blind emboss mokuhanga print on kochi kozo paper, edition of 20, 152 x 152 mm.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Above and Below

Alexander Massouras
Above and Below; or Apocryphal Journeys in Thirty Etchings
Julian Page, London: 2013
In Flight, A Trip Down and The Invisible World, the three short fictional texts in this volume, all transport the reader to imaginary places and through equivocal states of being. The narrative is moved forward by sparse, often single, lines of texts - on occasion it resists any momentum, offering only a blank page. In Flight begins 'One bright morning, Joseph woke to find the world as he'd dreamt it' and the dreamlike vision continues across all three stories, in a manner reminiscent of the haunting and surreal work of Edward Gorey. In Massouras's etchings surfaces wiped free of ink deliver an elegant counterpoint to areas of precise and figurative cross-hatching. Everyday objects are often on the verge of being obliterated by infinity. An image from In Flight alludes to the last expedition of Solomon Andrée, the ill-fated Arctic balloonist, while the final text touches on boat-building, mountaineering and environmental catastrophe. 
Paperback, 72 pages, 19 x 27.7 cm. Illustrated with 30 hard-ground etchings. Edition limited to 60 copies plus 5 artist's proofs.
ISBN 980957012417.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Sculpture of the Eskimo

George Swinton
Sculpture of the Eskimo
McClelland & Stewart, Toronto: 1972
[NB A revised edition was later published entitled Sculpture of the Inuit]
The classic reference work on Inuit sculpture by one of the first major advocates and scholars of the form within western art historical tradition. The most thorough, and lavish, visual record of Inuit sculpture published at the time, this volume presents clear images of many important works, spanning all phases of the form from the pre-Dorset and Dorset cultures to contemporary practitioners such as Fabian Oogark and Toona Erkoolik. Chapters considering e.g. Inuit aesthetics and the relationship of art to landscape are supplemented by a detailed bibliography.
Hardback, 256 pages, 32 x 25 cm. Illustrated with 37 colour plates, 770 black and white photographs.
ISBN 0771083718

Monday, 21 April 2014

Arctic Spectacles

Russell A. Potter
Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875
University of Washington Press: 2007
A volume that illuminates the nineteenth-century fascination with visual representations of the Arctic, weaving together a narrative of the major Arctic expeditions with an account of their public reception through art and the mass media. In a century that saw every corner of the globe slowly open to the examining eye of Western science, it was the Arctic - remote, mysterious, untamable - that most captured the imagination of artists and the public alike. The author draws on the illustrated press, panoramas and dioramas of the era, as well as often overlooked ephemera such as handbills and newspaper advertisements.
Paperback, 258 pages, 26 x 22 cm, black and white illustrations throughout, 13 colour plates.
ISBN 9780295986807

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Sunday, 30 March 2014


Nancy Campbell
Bird Editions, Oxford: 2014
Itoqqippoq means ‘washing line’ in Greenlandic. The narrative of this book is created from a series of photographs of a frozen washing line observed in Ilulissat, West Greenland. In the Arctic, laundry is left out to freeze-dry all year round, but these sheets were dancing in the wind – a sign of spring. 
Itoqqippoq was undertaken during a residency at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, and was printed at the Centre for Fine Print Research, Bristol, on an Epson Stylus Pro 9600.
Edition limited to 50 signed and numbered copies. 14 pages, 14.5 x 14.5 cm. Concertina binding by Manuel Mazzotti of London, in turquoise Wibalin Buckram with white foil-blocked boards.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Archaeology & Environment in the Scoresby Sund Fjord

Hanne Tuborg Sandell and Birgir Sandell
Archaeology & Environment in the Scoresby Sund Fjord: Ethno-Archaeological Investigations of the Last Thule Culture of Northeast Greenland
Meddelelser om Grønland, Man & Society 15. Museum Tusculanum Press, Denmark: 1991
In 1982, because of surveying for oil in Northeast Greenland, Kalaallit Nunaata Katersugaasivia / Grønlands Landsmuseum began a series of surveys in the area to bring the mapping of archaeological sites up to date. The subsequent excavation of a winter dwelling from the last Thule Eskimo settlement in the area is the subject of this book. The first section describes the natural conditions and living resources of the area, and is followed by a short historical/archaeological review of Northeast Greenland. Next, the results of the excavation are presented. There follows a section on the material and cultural development and adjustments made by the present population of the Scoresby Sund area, as regards ecology and resources.  Theories are put forward to describes patterns of resource exploitation, mobility, seasonal movements, etc. for the people living in the last Thule culture in the Scoresby Sund area. Opportunities for contact with European Whalers and other cultural developments are also discussed.
Typical illustrations include ‘rose root pickled in blubber’, ‘drop beads’ and ‘snow knives’.
Paperback, 152 pages, 26.4 x 19 cm, black and white illustrations.
ISBN 9788763512084

Monday, 24 March 2014

Alpine Spoilers

Kate Morrell
Alpine Spoilers
Published on the occasion of Armitt Museum and Library's centenary for Sublime Transactions, this book is the artist's response to the archive of The Fell & Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) of the English Lake District. The book appropriates text from a collection of mountaineering memoirs in the FRCC archives, held in the Armitt Library in Ambleside. These books are first-hand accounts of expeditions in the English Lakes, the Alps, the Himalayas and further afield, from the Victorian era to the present day. Alpine Spoilers contains an edit of the last paragraphs from over 500 books in which the author summarises the experience and creates a poignant finale.
120 pages, black and white illustrations.
Paperback, printed and bound by Ditto Press, published by the author: 2012

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Man In The Ice

Konrad Spindler
The Man In The Ice
Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London, 1994
This accessible account of the discovery of a prehistoric body in the Ötztaler Alps on the Austrian-Hungarian Border in 1991 is written by the leader of the scientific investigation, a chair of prehistory and early history at the University of Innsbruck. The perfectly preserved body and associated artefacts from the Neolithic period were revealed as a result of glacial retreat. The body sparked wide popular interest and was soon named 'Ötzi' by the world's media. As well as recording the complex scientific and criminal procedures involved in the investigation, the author documents the wider cultural offshoots of the discovery, including contemporary newspaper cartoons (to which he takes a dispassionate approach). The Ötzi Archive, which likewise seeks what can be salvaged from global ice melt, and strives to preserve these artefacts in turn, is proud to be the Iceman's namesake.
306 pages, with 32 pages of colour illustrations and 23 line drawings.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet

Campbell, Nancy 
How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet
This alphabet book serves as an introduction to the evocative Kalaallisut language. All 12 initial letters of the Greenlandic alphabet are represented with words ranging from akunagaa (‘it is too late to begin’) to unnuarpoq (‘there is no night any longer’). These words and their English definitions are accompanied by a series of pochoir prints depicting icebergs. As in contemporary Arctic life, the denouement of the sequence is caused by the disappearance of the ice. The alphabet is accompanied by a short essay highlighting the issues faced by speakers of Kalaallisut, which was declared ‘vulnerable’ by UNESCO in 2009.
Bird Editions: Oxford, 2011
18 pages, in designer binding by Natasha Herman of Red Bone Bindery. Letterpress printed, with pochoir illustration, in an edition limited to 50 copies signed and numbered by the author.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet

Campbell, Nancy
How To Say 'I Love You' In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet
MIEL editions, Ghent, 2014
This alphabet book serves as an introduction to the evocative Kalaallisut language. All 12 initial letters of the Greenlandic alphabet are represented with words ranging from akunagaa (‘it is too late to begin’) to unnuarpoq (‘there is no night any longer’). These words and their English definitions are accompanied by a series of pochoir prints depicting icebergs. As in contemporary Arctic life, the denouement of the sequence is caused by the disappearance of the ice. The alphabet is accompanied by a short essay highlighting the issues faced by speakers of Kalaallisut, which was declared ‘vulnerable’ by UNESCO in 2009.
Full colour. 18 postcards/pages, loose in printed paper wrapper with foil-stamped band, 10.5 x 14.8 cm.
ISBN 9789082172409

Nordenskiöld and The Ice Cap

Koester, Joachim

Nordenskiöld and The Ice Cap

The search of the Finnish-Swedish explorer Nils Nordenskiöld (1832-1901) for the temperate hidden heartland in the Greenland ice cap where Norse settlers were believed to have survived was conducted in expeditions during 1870 and 1873. Koester’s eponymous slide installation superimposes text fragments from Nordenskiöld's unpublished diaries on images of glacial landscapes.
14 slides are illustrated here, accompanied by two essays. The first essay, Of Reduction and Hyperbole by Lars Bang Larsen considers Koester’s ice narratology, and the second, Images Of Ice and Thought by Anders Kreuger needs no further explanation. The book concludes with a selection of pertinent quotations, some inevitable (Spufford) and some pleasantly surprising (Malevich, Pynchon).
Space Poetry: Copenhagen, 2005
Paperback, colour and black and white illustrations. 72 pages, 19.5 x 14 cm
ISBN 87-7603-034-2