The Voyage of the Challenger, by Herbert Swire, The Golden Cockerel Press, 1938

The Golden Cockerel Press was one of the greatest and most influential fine presses of the 20th century. It was founded by Harold (Hal) Midgley Taylor (1893–1925) in 1920. The press made beautiful handmade limited editions of classic works. The books were typeset by hand, used hand-made paper, were bound by hand, and contained original illustrations from artists and illustrators such as Eric GillRobert GibbingsJohn Buckland WrightBlair Hughes-StantonAgnes Miller ParkerDavid JonesMark Severin and Eric Ravilious.  The press often used specially designed typefaces, including those designed by Eric Gill especially for the press.  The British tradition of wood engraving was revived largely because of The Golden Cockerel Press.

In walking through my local book store last week (Book Gallery), I was thrilled to see a fine condition book published by The Golden Cockerel Press.  The Voyage of the Challenger – A Personal Narrative of the Historic Circumnavigation of the Globe in the Years 1872-1876 was written by Navigating Sub-Lieutenant Herbert Swine, R.N., who also illustrated the work with numerous reproductions from paintings and drawings contained in his journal. The book is in great condition. As you can see with the pictures below, for a book published nearly 75 years ago, the paper, type and illustrations are sharper than sharp, just amazing quality.

The Voyage of the Challenger was a scientific exercise that made many discoveries, leading to the creation of the new field of oceanography. Sponsored by the Royal Society of London, the expedition obtained the use of HMS Challenger from the Royal Navy, modifying the ship for scientific work. The expedition was led by Captain George Nares and included a full scientific attachment under the direction of C. Wyville Thomson. They travelled nearly 70,000 nautical miles (130,000 km) surveying and exploring, compiling information on/from zoological specimens, deep sea soundings, deposit samples, chemical analysis of sea water, meteorological, magnetic, thermal, geological and botanical observations. They catalogued over 4,700 previously unknown species. It was a hugely successful mission.

This publication was produced from the manuscript journals of Navigating Sub-Lieutenant Herbert Swine, R.N.,  which were in the possession of his widow. Swine was a biologist, and narrative provides an intriguing look inside one of the most successful scientific expeditions in history. The fact that the narrative is contained within the creation of one of the finest presses in history just adds to its allure.

{Ed Note 12/29/2011: Book and Vines Subscriber Neil sent me some additional information from the Golden Cockerel ‘Pertelote’.

“In our ‘sea series’, this was the most formidable undertaking on which we had embarked, not excepting The Log of the Bounty. Up to the date of its publication the only details of the Challenger’s voyage were to be found in scientific works, so that this cheerful journal, kept by a high-spirited young Naval Officer on board, threw new light on one of the most important expeditions of modern times. The owners of the journal stipulated that Lt. Swire’s illustrations must be reproduced as an integral part of the whole: to this we agreed though it meant departing from our tradition by reproducing amateur illustrations in pen-and-ink and in colour. The only satisfactory way of reproducing the coloured sketches was to have them specially painted by hand, and the necessity of recovering the high cost of this work caused the price of the two volumes to seem excessive (although in fact it was not). While we are unlikely to repeat such an experiment in illustration, we have had the satisfaction of knowing that we fulfilled our function by publishing this book in a style impossible for a commercial firm. Incidentally we consider Lettice Sandford’s design for the spine the most attractive thing of its kind we have produced.”}

{Ed Note 2: As of morning of 12/29/2011, Book Gallery still has this edition at pricing better than anything I see on Abe’s.}

About the Edition

  • Two volumes
  • Printed and illustrated with reproductions from the original manuscript Journals in the possession of the author’s widow, by Christopher and Anthony Sandford and Owen Rutter at The Golden Cockerel Press, Rolls Passage, London in 1938
  • Blue cloth covered boards backed in white buckram; spines are lettered and decorated in gilt in a nautical motif featuring mermaids, fish and nautical instruments
  • Printed in Eric Gill’s Perpetua Type
  • Printed on Van Gelder paper
  • Limited to 300 sets

Pictures

The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Books in Slipcase
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Front Cover of Both Volumes
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Map/Endpapers
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Frontispiece
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Title Page Vol. 1
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Text (Introduction)
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Text and Illustration #1
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration #2
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Illustrations #3
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration #4
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration #5 (Close-up)
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Illustrations #6
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Title Page Vol. 2
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Text #1
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Text and Illustration #7
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Illustration #8
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Page with Illustration #9
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Sample Text #2
The Voyage of the Challenger, GCP, Colophon

Leave a Reply