Aurora Australis

Ernest Shackleton and members of the ‘Nimrod’ Expedition

Illustrated by George Marston

Limited to 500 hand-numbered copies

Commentary by Jan Piggott

A superb replica of a memento from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration to commemorate the centenary of the death of Ernest Shackleton.

Aurora Australis was a triumph... Its contents express the spirit and character of the commander and his men on the Nimrod expedition and of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration itself.’
  1. From Jan Piggott’s commentary, Printed at the Sign of the Penguins


Devised by Ernest Shackleton to sustain his men’s spirits during the winter darkness of 1908, Aurora Australis was the first book ever produced in Antarctica: a beautifully illustrated miscellany of polar life printed inside the British Antarctic Expedition’s cramped hut. To mark the centenary of Shackleton’s death, the Folio Society has created a superb replica, in a limited edition of just 500 hand-numbered copies. Quarter-bound in the smoothest calfskin with beechwood Venesta boards, Aurora Australis is complemented with a commentary by Shackleton expert Jan Piggott. With only around 80 copies made originally, and no other facsimile reproductions in print, this is a rare chance to own one of the greatest mementos from the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Limited to 500 hand-numbered sets  

Quarter-bound in calfskin leather with beechwood Venesta boards 

194 pages printed on Old Mill paper and hand-sewn with green twine 

Printed throughout to match the original 

11 illustrations in total by George Marston 

11˝ x 8˝



16 pages printed letterpress on Munken pure paper 

Bound in green Tintoretto Ceylon paper blocked in brown foil 

10˝ x 7½˝


Presentation box 

Linen-covered clamshell box blocked in brown foil and inset with a calfskin leather label blind-blocked with the ‘Printed at the Sign of “The Penguins”’ device

12˝ x 9˝ x 2¼˝

‘The printing office was only six feet by seven and had to accommodate a large sewing machine and bunks for two men, which was a disadvantage.’
  1. Ernest Shackleton from his preface to Aurora Australis

Painstakingly produced on an Albion hand press in a dark and crowded hut – so cold that the ink required constant warming with a candle – the original Aurora Australis was an extraordinary achievement. It is a true miscellany, with contributions from Shackleton and eight of his companions. The pieces include an account of one of the great achievements of the expedition – the first ascent of the live volcano Mount Erebus – poems by Shackleton, an entertaining imagined conversation with an Emperor Penguin (‘a most civil bird’), and many other compositions, all beautifully and wittily evoking expedition life. Marston’s vivid etchings and lithographs deftly capture the camaraderie of the men and the events of the expedition.

Modern reprographics, as well as extraordinary commitment from Folio and the experts at Ludlow Bookbinders, have achieved a flawless facsimile. The limited edition is a replica of the copy that Shackleton presented to Rudyard Kipling – now held at Dulwich College where Shackleton was a pupil. The calfskin leather quarter-binding and Venesta beechwood boards, originally fashioned by Bernard Day, expedition electrician and motor-engineer, have been faithfully reproduced. Day made the bindings from various expedition packing cases, with their original contents still indicated in stencilled lettering. For this copy, ‘BRITISH ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION 1907' can be seen inside the front board and ‘PETIT POIS’ inside the back – hence the original is known as the ‘petit pois’ edition.

‘The Ascent of Mount Erebus’ by T. W. Edgeworth David

‘The Night Watchman’ full-page image

‘Midwinter Night’ by Nemo (Ernest Shackleton) a poem attributed to Veritas  

‘The Messman’ full-page image 

’Trials of a Messman’ by A Messman (Raymond Priestley) 

‘Struggle? For the broom’ full-page image 

‘In the stables’ full-page image 

‘A Pony Watch’ by Putty (George Marston) 

‘Southward Bound’ by Lapsus Linguae  (Eric Marshall) 

‘An Interview with an Emperor’ by A. F. M. (Alistair Mackay)  

‘Erebus’ by Nemo (Ernest Shackleton)

‘Fourteen good and true’ full-page image 

‘An Ancient Manuscript’ by Shellback (Frank Wild) 

‘Life under Difficulties’ James Murray

‘Bathybia’ by Douglas Mawson 

Jan Piggott, former Keeper of Archives at Dulwich College and organiser of the acclaimed exhibition ‘Shackleton: the Antarctic and Endurance’ was specially commissioned to write Printed at the Sign of the Penguins to accompany Folio’s facsimile. A fascinating treasury of knowledge about the explorer’s life, character and literary leanings, the commentary describes the determination and ingenuity needed to create a book in taxing conditions – ‘a marvellous, original challenge’. Reflecting the original production of Aurora Australis, the commentary has been printed letterpress by Hand and Eye in London. It has been bound in Tintoretto Ceylon paper and hand-sewn by Ludlow Bookbinders.

15 February 1874–5 January 1922

An exceptional leader, Ernest Shackleton is amongst the greatest Antarctic explorers. He served as a junior officer in Captain Scott's 1901–04 Discovery Expedition and went on to mount three expeditions of his own. The first he led was the 1907–09 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition. He came within 97 miles of the Pole, the farthest south reached by any expedition, but had to turn back to save his men from starvation. He returned a national hero and was knighted by King Edward VII. Shackleton’s exemplary leadership skills again proved crucial when his next expedition, the Endurance Expedition of 1914–17 – an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic – became a desperate fight for survival. After the Endurance was crushed by the ice, Shackleton undertook a perilous 800-mile journey in an open boat to South Georgia to secure the rescue of his men. A gifted writer, his polar memoirs The Heart of the Antarctic and South stand testament both to his heroic leadership and his talent for storytelling. It was on his third expedition as leader, an attempt to circumnavigate Antarctica, that Shackleton died of a heart attack on 5 January 1922 at the age of 47. 


You May Also Like

  1. Image of Shackleton’s Boat Journey book

    A story of tremendous courage and endurance, related first-hand by Frank Worsley, this stunning Folio Society edition of Shackleton's Boat Journey includes photographs by Frank Hurley, maps and introduction by explorer Ranulph Fiennes. 

  2. Bestsellers
    A Man on the Moon

    A Man on the Moon

    Andrew Chaikin


    Andrew Chaikin selects stunning new photography for The Folio Society edition of A Man on the Moon – his commanding history of the Apollo missions, with an introduction by Tom Hanks. 

  3. Shackleton’s Antarctica

    Shackleton’s Antarctica

    Ernest Shackleton


    Commemorating the centenary of Ernest Shackleton’s death, The Folio Society brings together The Heart of the Antarctic and South – thrilling accounts of his greatest polar expeditions in his own words.

  4. Editors Choice


    Edited by Peter Gillman


    Compiled, written and edited by Peter Gillman for The Folio Society, Everest: From Reconnaissance to Summit is an exclusive record of five key expeditions, introduced by Wade Davis and Jan Morris with superlative photography from the Royal Geographical Society archives.