Antarctica was invented before it was discovered

Title page of Aurora Australis.
Title page of Aurora Australis.

A rare copy of the first book to be printed in Antarctica is a feature of the latest exhibition at the National Library's Turnbull Gallery.

Called Extreme south: Antarctica Imagined, the exhibition draws on library's collections to illustrate the wildly imaginative ways Antarctica was perceived in the two thousand years before explorers actually reached the South Pole.

The exhibition's curator Dr Fiona Oliver said Antarctica was invented long before it was discovered.

"The books, maps and illustrations on display all represent visions of Antarctica when it was quite literally Terra Incognita - 'the unknown land'.

"Exhibits range from a 16th-century map that populates a vast land mass with camels, elephants and unicorns to one of only 30 bound copies of Aurora Australis - the first book to be written and printed on the Ice."

The book was a 'winter quarters' activity of members of Ernest Shackleton's 1908-09 expedition to Antarctica and contains ten written contributions, with illustrations by George Marston, the expedition's artist. Dr Oliver said

Book covers were made from the wooden crates used to pack food, so each book was unique, Dr Oliver said.

The exhibition also features installations by contemporary New Zealand artist Gabby O'Connor.

More: https://natlib.govt.nz/blog/posts/antarctic-wonder

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