Friday, July 22, 2016

Arctic Regions

One of the most glorious books in our collections is William Bradford's Arctic Regions (London: Low, Marston, Low and Seale, 1873). It is a photographic tour de force assembled by an artist better known for his landscape paintings. Bradford traveled up into Baffin Bay and toured Greenland with two photographers in tow. Rather than seeing the north as a forbidding landscape, Bradford saw, and his photographers captured, a scenic land. In their hands ice formations were not obstacles to shipping and navigation, but wondrous works of nature--at times beautiful, and other times sublime. It is a unique view of the north for its time: when explorers from around the world were trying to conquer the north and find a Northwest Passage for commerce, it pauses to ponder the beauty of a foreign world.

As Bradford put it, "This volume is a result of an expedition to the Arctic Regions, made solely for the purposes of art." His text both waxes poetic and weighs down the images with the kinds of copious detail only a landscape painter would see. 

The book is also a technical wonder. All of the images (over 140) are actual photographic prints pasted into the book. There were around 300 copies printed, so you can imagine the darkroom work involved in producing the edition.

You can see it in all of its glory by asking for Stef G610.B79.

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