What would you read on a voyage to the Antarctic? Over a hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton crammed his on-board bookshelf with all kinds of books to accompany him on an ill-fated journey to the South Pole.
A photo of his quarters, digitized by the Royal Geographical Society in London, is a unique insight into the reading habits of a man at the turn of the century.
Not surprisingly, reaching his goal was very much on Shackleton's mind. The library is packed with books of other explorations, including The Threshold of the Unknown Region by Clements Markham, Voyage of the Vega by Nordenskjold, and The Northwest Passage by Roald Amundsen.
Many of Shackleton's books were (at the time) recent publications. He definitely had a soft spot for mysteries and crime novels. The Witness for the Defense, The Case of Miss Elliott and The Message of Fate, among others, are all detective and murder mystery stories.
The library also includes books which would have been more recognizable in Shackleton's time than today. Potash and Perlmutter, for example, is a comic collection of stories about two Jewish tailors in New York. There was even a 1923 film adaptation. Gertrude Atheron was also a somewhat scandalous writer, according to Wikipedia at least. Her Perch of the Devil made the list.
Some authors would be recognizable to most. Joseph Conrad and Fyodor Dostoyevsky both found their way on board.
Shackleton also showed an interest in women and their place in society, something that would have been of much discussion in his time. The Woman's View, in particular, denounces marriage laws and promotes women's rights. The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne, World's End and Thou Fool all deal with relationships gone sour.
The shelves were also stacked with dictionaries, encyclopedias and other materials.
Shackleton was certainly well prepared for his long journey, but his time-killers were put to use in awaiting a rescue rather than a landing. In January of 1915, the ship and crew became trapped in ice and were forced to abandon ship when it sank 10 months later. A year later, 28 of them were rescued.
The full list, as reported by the BBC, is as follows:
Seven Short Plays by Lady Gregory
Perch of the Devil by Getrude Atherton
Pip by Ian Hey
Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vol 2 Pleasant by G B Shaw
Almayer's Folly by Joseph Conrad
Dr Brewer's Readers Handbook
The Brassbounder by David Bone
The Case of Miss Elliott by Emmuska Orczy
Raffles by EW Hornung
The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett
Pros and Cons: A Newspaper Reader's and Debater's Guide to the Leading Controversies of the Day by JB Askew
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Woman's View by Herbert Flowerdew
Thou Fool by JJ Bell
The Message of Fate by Louis Tracy
The Barrier by Rex Beach
Manual of English Grammar and Composition by Nesfield
A Book of Light Verse
Oddsfish by Robert Hugh Benson
Poetical Works of Shelley
Monsieur de Rochefort by H De Vere Stacpoole
Voyage of the Vega by Nordenskjold
The Threshold of the Unknown Region by Clements Markham
Cassell's Book of Quotations by W Gurney Benham
The Concise Oxford Dictionary
Chambers Biographical Dictionary
Cassell's new German-English English-German dictionary
Chambers 20th Century dictionary
The Northwest Passage by Roald Amundsen
The Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas by McClintock
World's End by Amelie Rives
Potash and Perlmutter by Montague Glass
Round the Horn Before the Mast by A Basil Lubbock
The Witness for the Defence by AEW Mason
Five Years of My Life by Alfred Dreyfuss
The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne by William J Locke
The Rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley
United States Grinnell Expedition by Dr Kane
Three Years of Arctic Service by Greely
Voyage to the Polar Sea by Nares
Journal of HMS Enterprise by Collinson