"Men used to have stronger vital sap than now; that was in the days when all countries were inhabited...": First Edition of Across Arctic America: Narrative of the Firth Thule Expedition; Lengthily Inscribed by Knud Rasmussen
Across Arctic America: Narrative of the Firth Thule Expedition.
Item Number: 52005
New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1927.
First edition of this classic narrative of Rasmussen’s journey across Arctic America. Octavo, original cloth, map endpapers, frontispiece, with 64 illustration, four maps. Lengthily inscribed by the author on verso of frontispiece, “For S. D. Green, Philadelphia, U.S.A. “Men used to have stronger vital sap than now; that was in the days when all countries were inhabited. Then things were done that we do not understand now, and the eye saw things which are hidden from us. But the tongue has carried down the experiences of the old men to us, whose vital sap is more diluted. The Eskimo Knud Rasmussen Nov. 1927.” In near fine condition. A unique inscription.
Between 1921 and 1924, Knud Rasmussen led a small band of colleagues in a journey of investigation across the top of North America. The full scientific report of that 20,000-mile trek by dog sled from Greenland to Siberia, known to history as the Firth Thule Expedition, fills ten volumes. It was the people who most captivated the Greenland-born Rasmussen, who had become a virtual adopted son to the Eskimos of the far northern district still known by the name of the trading post he established there, Thule. His first four Thule Expeditions extended the limits of the known world in Greenland solely, but Rasmussen’s Fifth Thule Expedition demonstrated the unity of the Eskimo world from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chukchi Sea, proving the people all shared the same basic language and culture. As historian Terrence Cole notes in his introductory biography, “The intellectual and spiritual life of the people themselves were his primary interest, not simply geographical discovery, and thus even when following the tracks of previous explorers, he found uncharted territory. His basic principle was to first earn the trust of the local people by showing understanding and patience: living with the people and not apart from them, sharing their work and their food….” That was how Rasmussen approached the entire Arctic: he did not live apart from it, skimming over its surface like the fame-seeking polar explorers of the time such as Peary and Cook, but immersed himself in it—so successfully that a Canadian Inuit elder once marveled that he was “the first white man [he had ever seen] who was also an Eskimo.”