The 'Aurora Australis' was produced by the members of Sir Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09, also known as the Nimrod Expedition. Printing firm Joseph Causton & Sons lent Shackleton's crew the printing press and a small etching press; they also donated the high quality paper, ink and type. Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild were given three weeks of instruction in printing and typesetting prior to the expedition, while George Marsten was trained in lithography and plate etching.

The work comprises a collection of prose and poetry written by the crew, and with a preface by Shackleton, who also edited the volume. The imprint states it was 'published at the winter quarters of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907, during the winter months of April, May, June, July, 1908' and 'printed at the Sign of The Penguins': by Joyce and Wild : lat. 77 degrees 32 south, long. 166 degrees 12 east. Antarctica'. It features a red printers device of two penguins.

The illustrations were created by George Marston and printed by Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild. The printers worked in extremely cramped and cold conditions, and often kept the ink from congealing by moving a lit candle under the plate. Due to the difficult conditions and inexperienced printers, copies vary slightly in contents.

The covers were made from venesta packing cases used to store supplies by motor mechanic Bernard Day. The contents of each case was stencilled on the outside, and these stencils are often used to identify different copies of 'Aurora Australis'. Museums Victoria's copy is known as the 'Chicken Copy'.

No more than 100 copies are thought to have been produced, and the majority of these were circulated privately following the expedition.

Physical Description

Book with wooden cover made of 3-ply and quarter-bound in brown calf. Spine has the title and printers' trademark, the two penguins, embossed. The volume comprises 118 pages and 10 leaves of lithographed and etched plates.


'Aurora Australis' was the first book to be printed in Antarctica. The crew produced the work during the harsh winter months in order to maintain morale.

More Information

  • Editor

    Sir Ernest Shackleton, Antarctica, 1908
    Shacketon led the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09, or Nimrod Expedition. He edited and wrote the preface for 'Aurora Australis'.

  • Illustrator

    George E. Marston, Antarctica, 1908
    Marston was the official artist on the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09, or Nimrod Expedition, and created the etchings and lithographs used to illustrate 'Aurora Australis'.

  • Donor

    Lady Ramsay, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1996

  • Inscriptions

    Copy signed by Ernest H. Shackleton and George Marston ; 'Chicken' stencilled inside back cover ; 'F.Z.E. from the library of Fred. Z. Eager'- embossed on front lining paper.

  • Category


  • Discipline

    Rare Books

  • Type of item


  • Exhibition Collection Management

    210 mm (Width), 35 mm (Depth), 270 mm (Height)

  • References

    Online version: [Link 1] Michael H Rosove, 2001. Antarctica, 1772-1922: Freestanding publications through 1999. Edition. AdeÌie Books. Allen Mawer, March 2009. 'Light in the South'. The National Library Magazine. Vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 8-11, [Link 2]
    [Book] Rosove, Michael H. 2001. Antarctica, 1772-1922: Freestanding publications through 1999. 377-381.

  • Keywords

    Printing, Illustrations, Antarctica, British Antarctic Expedition (1907-1909), Voyages and travels, Poetry