First edition, first printing. Publisher's original blue pebble-grain cloth with titles in gilt to the spine. Illustrated with a tinted lithograph frontispiece of the H.M.S. Investigator trapped in the ice and a folding coloured map. A very good copy, the binding firm with a little cracking to the front hinge, some minor splitting to the cloth at the rear joint, a small amount of chipping to the spine ends, and bumping to the corners and board edges. The contents with the engraved armorial bookplate of Francis Markham to the front pastedown, spotting to the preliminary pages, the odd minor mark to page margins, and a 2cm tear to one fold of the map, which also has a little creasing, are otherwise in very good order. Housed in a bespoke quarter black morocco solander case. An appealing, unsophisticated copy in the original cloth.
Alexander Armstrong (1818-1899) served as surgeon-naturalist of the H.M.S. Investigator during its 1850-54 expedition under the command of Sir Robert John Le Mesurier McClure, sent to continue the search for the missing John Franklin expedition by way of the Bering Strait. It was on this voyage that the North-West passage was finally discovered, for which McClure was knighted and shared with his crew a reward of £10,000. The expedition also discovered Prince of Wales Strait between Banks and Viscount Melville Sound, prior to the Investigator's entrapment in the ice and its eventual abandonment in 1853. Armstrong's unofficial narrative details the exploration by sledge parties of Banks and Victoria Islands, the 'freezing in' and abandonment of the Investigator at Bay of Mercy in 'Banks' (later renamed M'Clure) Strait, and the starving crew's rescue by the Resolute commanded by Captain Henry Kellett in 1854. Also included are details regarding weather and ice conditions, flora and fauna, the Inuit, and the health of the crew. The lively narrative "furnishes moving descriptions of appalling peril in the wind-driven pack-ice, along with a candid exposure of the condition to which the crew were reduced", thereby contradicting McClure's official account which claimed "that he could have saved the men's lives without external aid". The book was awarded the Gilbert Blane gold medal for the best journal kept by a surgeon of the Royal Navy, and "among the published journals of Arctic exploration, Armstrong's Personal Narrative still holds first place with Franklin's Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea in terms of interest and value" (Neatby, Dictionary Canadian Biography). Armstrong later went on to serve in the Crimean War, becoming the director-general of the Medical Department of the Royal Navy in 1869, and was ultimately knighted, subsequently serving as honorary physician to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. [Arctic Bibliography 682; Sabin 2017; Hill 34].
Stock code: 24075