Pet Book 5: Images

One of the main reasons I picked Arctic Explorations as my Pet Book was because of the images. The intricacy and detail of them is just stunning. I went back to the Special Collections today to take photos of some of my favorites to include in this post


As far as I can tell, Arctic Explorations uses at least two different printing methods to create its images: wood and metal engravings and metal mesotints. On the second title page (which I mentioned in my first post), it states, “Illustrated by upwards of three hundred engravings, from Sketches by the Author. The steel plates executed under the superintendence of J.M. Butler, the wood engravings by Van Ingen & Snyder.”


The mesotints are only used for one image in each volume. The images are both portraits, the first of the author Elisha Kent Kane (below) and the second of Henry Grinnell, who was on the explorer on the original expedition whose ship never returned and Kane was sent to look for. You can tell that it’s a mesotint (at least when you look at the real thing) because you can see all the tiny dots, but it’s quite interesting because I’m not sure it’s necessarily from a photo. I think it looks kind more like it came from a drawing or painting?



At first glance, it is rather hard to tell the difference between the wood and metal engravings based on the style of the engravings and how detailed they are. The clues come in the location of the photos in the book. The wood engravings are all embedded in the text. I wanted to say that they were reliefs, but I don’t think they are. There are two main styles that the wood engravings appear in: either large in the middle of the text (left below) or small at the end of the chapter (right below). In addition, there are simpler wood engravings that are images of some of the tools they used on the expedition that are more similar to the diagrams that we saw as wood reliefs in some other books in the special collections.


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Then you can also tell which ones are the metal engravings because they are all printed on a different paper and tipped in to the book. Another main indicator is the multiple names at the bottom of the image; in addition, the shading in the metal plates is a bit more nuanced than than the wood plates (but the wood engravings are also heavily shaded). Many of the images are dramatic landscapes as you only find in the Arctic or Antarctic, so I’ve included one of those below. Next there are a lot of images of scenes they experienced in the Arctic, so I’ve included my favorite image of the polar bear and the dogs. Finally, the third image I’ve included is the one that I spoke about in the last post, the popular image that is most reproduced online. Elisha Kent Kane is third from the right.

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While there are no printer’s marks or printer’s flowers of the types from Early Modern works, there are two other image styles in this book. There are two tipped in, pull-out maps (one in each volume). They are probably some sort of engraving, but they aren’t shaded like the other engravings. They could be reliefs. I’m not entirely sure. You can’t really see on the one on the left from volume two, but they’ve spelled December incorrectly in the top left section as “DECEMRAR” and in April second from the left in the middle row is spelled with an A that lacks the cross bar even though correct As are used in every other instance.

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The other style of image is the tables that are used especially in the appendix of the second volume. They were probably set in the type rather than created separately, but they still create a very different way of looking at the page compared to the narrative text and the engravings.



I think it’s really interesting how they went through all of these different printing processes to create this book because they really put a lot of effort and money into it. At the same time, I can kind of understand it because it seems like the kind of book that they would have wanted to print quite nicely. I really enjoyed looking at all of the images in this book.


PS: I found one small instance of music printed in this book, but I don’t really have anything to say about it other than it was there.

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