Narratives of polar voyages enjoyed wide circulation in Anglo-American cultural and political spheres during the 19th century. Yet the familiar travel accounts of adventurous voyage and their fictional counterparts were not the only forms of literary production generated by Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Many expeditions brought a surprising piece of equipment aboard ship: a printing press. With such presses, polar-voyaging sailors wrote and printed newspapers, broadsides, plays, and other reading matter beyond the Arctic and Antarctic Circles; these publications were produced almost exclusively for a reading audience comprised of the expedition’s crew members.
In this presentation, Hester Blum, associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, examines the first printed polar newspapers. What does this drive toward what she calls “extreme printing” tell us about the state of print culture and coterie publication in the nineteenth century Anglo-American world? Her recent talk at Bowdoin calls attention to the rhetorical distance between mass-published voyage accounts, and the coterie publications produced and circulated aboard ship. ‘Polar Imprints’ is attuned to the tension between the global ambitions of polar voyages, and the remarkably circumscribed conditions of their practice.
Blum’s talk was sponsored by Africana Studies, Arctic Studies, and the English Department.