Libris Polaris.

Collection of Bassett Jones at Columbia University Library. [MS CollLibris Polaris]. Bassett Jones was a collector and member of both Explorers and Grolier Clubs. He and Stefansson did a major exhibit of polar exploration literature in English at the Grolier Club in January 1932. In that year Jones was also Acting President of the Eplorers Club. He then lived at 1088 Park Avenue. Bartlett in the National Geographic says: “ We stopped for a couple of days at Nantucket, and there, through the generosity of Bassett Jones, electrical engineer in charge of the lighting at the New York World’s Fair, we acquired an otter trawl, which later enabled us to bring back a wealth of specimens from the floor of the ocean.”

Box 1 is primarily a miscellaneous alphabetical file of correspondence arranged by sender or occasionally recipient, including a good number of significant explorers. The following list is in order of the folders:

Roald Amundsen , gives a critique of Stefansson and the idea of a friendly Arctic.

Antarctic Radio News . Sunday Supplement, June 16, 1929. From Little America, with a dinner menu. Is this a periodical we should list?

Arctic exploration : miscellaneous photos, mainly of Snow Hill, but including one of Mrs Peary, Marie and Bartlett.

Bob Bartlett —letters to Jones, in a number of folders. One is a telegram to Jones, 2/6/32, right at the time of the Grolier expedition: LONG MAY YOUR BIG JIB DRAW AND YOUR HEAD SAILS NEVER CATCH ABACK

Another Bartlett file is titled “Greenland Expedition of 1937. New York.” It contains an offprint by him of “Greenland Expeditions of 1937” from Explorations and Field-Work of the Smithsonian Institution in 1937, p. 51-56, which includes a picture of Harvard student Robert Graff [eventually the President of the Grolier Club] and Howard McCall talking to the Eskimo girls of Cape York, Greenland. It’s a presentation copy “For Governor Bassett Jones of Nantucket. Best wishes Sincerely Bob Bartlett.”

11/21/42, in letter to Jones, Bartlett recommends he read the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Beaufort, Sir Francis . Letter to the Admiralty on ways to rescue Franklin, 11/24/1849

Franklin, Sir John . To William MacDonald 3/29/1882, inviting MacDonald to join the 2d overland expedition and asking him to get from Inverness to Stromness to join Franklin without bothering to go to London. He would be crew carrying out normal tasks for the boats and canoes: It may perhaps be satisfactory for you to know that all the Englishmen whom I propose taking will be sturdy quiet persons and of exemplary character—and with such men feeling as they will the honor and credit of their country equally concerned with their own character in the success of the Enterprise we may hope under the blessings of Providence for every exertion or success.

Gould, Laurence . Letter of 1/27/1935, possibly to Jones, alludes to an epic poem by Barney A. Heimbinder called “White Conquest,” inspired by first Byrd expedition (New York: privately printed, 1934). Gould folders include a photo of Stef, Bartlett, and Gould. (Another folder under heading Group has enlargement of that photo.)

Greely to Jones 11/20/31, offering help on the Jones/Stef exhibition at the Grolier Club: Certainly will help all I can in the exhibit of Polar Literature…. Once I had over two thousand polar titles but they were scattered after my wife died. Much is in the N G Library. Probably I can send you two or three hundred titles with some photos.

MacMillan, Donald to Bassett Jones 11/4/32 has photo of McClintock’s Foxwrecked and on its side on a beach in Disko Harbor. Another letter of 3/4/43 talks about the Bassett Jones library going to Bowdoin rather than to Columbia (as it happened). MacMillan file has another letter to Jones, 3/4/43, pleased that Jones was considering giving his library to Bowdoin, which combined with his would make Bowdoin library “one of the best, if not the best, Arctic library in the country.”

Markham, Clemens . Letter of 2/28/1883 to unknown recipient arguing the success of Nares. An interesting letter on lime juice as well.

Mawson, Douglas , to Jones 5/16/32 responding to a Jones letter praising The Home of the Blizzard: May I be permitted to express my appreciation of the splendid achievements in the Polar zones of many of your American explorers. Peary’s work in the Arctic has my fullest approbation. Wilkes in the Antarctic strained endurance to the full and set a very high standard of endeavour. Byrd…, has proved himself of the very highest order as an explorer….

Marie Stafford to Jones, 1/23/32 saying her mother Josephine: … took the midnight to Washington [from Nutley, NJ] & is going to her lockbox this morning in order to get for you the chronometers which Dad carried to the Pole with him and also his record and a piece of the flag, which Lange Roch (?) recovered at Cape Brevoort and brought back to mother. Another letter from Marie Stafford 2/5/32 to Jones, who had invited Marie Peary Stafford “to come to the Grolier Club exhibit. Unfortunately, however, I can’t afford to come down now [from Cambridge] and later also and I be in New York the week of the 29th.” She also asked Jones to get Mrs [Emma] de Long to autograph her copy of “The Voyage of the Jeannette” for her and her boys “for whom I am trying to assemble the Arctic library.”

Another typed document in the Stafford file outlines her plan for a Peary monument at Cape York: That this is a hard time to raise money for anything, goes without saying. Those who do not feel the depression personally, are caring for others less fortunate. [Bartlett was to use the Morrissey for this expedition but used native stone and native labor to erect it.]

Stefansson to B. Jones 2/4/32 when they were working on the Grolier exhibit and when Stefansson was trying to sell Jones books he lacked for the exhibit, noting that the “books themselves are now side by side with yours at the Grolier Club.” It was the Depression and at one point in a 2/15/32 letter, Stef says: If the depression is really hard with you, we could make a real hard time deal—a little down now and the rest when convenient. [In the Stef folders is also a clipping from NY Sunof 12/28/38 in which Hobbs attacks Weddell’s penetration of the Weddell Sea as a hoax.]

Wilkins, Herbert . folder has comic strip from NY Herald Tribune 11/22/1936 about an air crash in the Arctic but mainly advertising the smoking of Camel cigarettes.

Box 2 consists of one container with miscellaneous materials including a box of matches left in Antarctica by Amundsen and found by Gould, a small rock found by Amundsen (see Gould’s Cold, p. 218-22), exhibit labels for the Grolier Club with descriptive notes but no citations—seemed to be a couple hundred of them, and finally other exhibit cards for a smaller exhibit of Bassett Jones exhibit at the Architectural League during June 1941.

Box 4, first folder. Lithograph work that must be very rare: Voyages that have been attempted to discover a Northern Passage to the Pacific Ocean. Compiled by J. Wyld and Printed from Stone in the Quarter Master General’s Office Horse Guards 1818. [Consists of 4 unnumbered leaves listing expeditions from Cabot in 1497 to an announcement of the 1818 expedition of Ross & Buchan.

The same miscellaneous folder also contains a flyer for the Explorers Club jubilee program on April 3, 1934, at 8.30 pm with 8 speakers including Stefansson, Fiala, Bartlett, MacMillan, and Henson, with Henson last speaking on “The Actual Attainment of the North Pole.”

Jones, Bassett , continued. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY. In addition, the RB&M Library at Columbia holds an acquisition file related to the purchase of Libris Polaris in 1944-45.

July 10, 1935, Letter from Nantucket to Walter [Grainger] describing his house in Nantucket, Nashayte.

p. 2: This is a ‘ranch’ on the water, without formality of any kind—a place to live in old cloths. Six miles from any semblance of so called ‘civilization’—150 acres fenced ‘gainst summer visitors’. So long as I live there will be one place where the good old fashioned hardy primitiveness holds—a place for books and conversation, not ‘bridge’; for hard physical work, not golf. Yours, Bassett Jones.

1936 Letter is from 175 Riverside Drive

1944 File includes priced catalog, the 3rd such copy, with title-page saying it was (Copied from the Card Catalogue). It had been searched against Columbia catalogues and noted call numbers of duplicates. Representative titles:

Abruzzi. Polar Star. 2 vols. London $20

Offprints at .50

Single journal issues at $1.25

AGS. Problems of Polar Research $7.50

Amundsen. My Life as an Explorer, 1927. With Stef letter $20

Amundsen. The South Pole. London 1913. With RA ltr to Mikkelson.

Aurora Australis. Antarctica. 1907. With signatures of Shackleton and Marston. $20.

Back, George. Narrative of the Arctic. Large Paper copy $25

Back, George. Narrative… in HMS Terror. London, 1838 $16. With Sherard Osborn Bookplate, and another copy

Barrington, Daines. Miscellanies. 1781. $35

Barrington, Daines. Probability of reaching the North Pole discussed. 1775. Signed $50

Blue Books. Bound volume by John Ross. 1824-1850-52. Bad condition Annotated and indexed by Sir John Ross (includes six Blue Books)

British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-1913. 13 volumes [Scientific reports] $40

Cook, Dr. Frederick. Through the first Antarctic Night. 1900. Presented by Cook to Herbert Bridgman. With notes from all Belgica officers incl. Gerlache, Amundsen, Artowski, G. le Comte, and Rocavatski. $10.

Cook, Captain James. Voyages. 3 vols. in 6, all first eds. $175

Flaherty. My Eskimo Friends. 1924 $4

Hakluyt. Principle Navigations. 3 vols. 1599 $350.

Henson. Negro Explorer at the North Pole. 1912. $1.50

Love life of Dr. Kane. Missing

Parry’s Works, 1821-28. 5 vols. with 3 ALS $75

Peary. The North Pole. With Peary letter. $45

Purchas, Samuel Travels. 5 vols. 1625-6 Sign by John Narborough. $500

Richardson. Fauna Boreali-Americana. 4vols. 1825-37. $120

Shackleton. Heart of Antarctica. 2 vols. Large paper uncut. 1909. $45

South Polar Times, 1907-14. 3 vols. $30

Wilkins, Hubert. Under the North Pole. Special large ed, carried aboard the Nautilus. 1931. With Wilkins letters and the flag carried on Nautilus. $600

There is in the file an extensive list of books not received [by Duttons], as well as a list of “Books Not on List” but found in the collection. As far as I can see the appraisal was done by Duttons (Park & 48th) where the collection had been sent and who asked Jones to take the books back on 3/18/44. On 6/28/45 Stephen McCarthy, Assistant Director at Columbia, wrote Duttons re a final transaction; says that the titles missing and the titles not listed but provided pretty much evened out with one exception: The exception is Dionyse, Settle, A true reporte of the laste voyage… 1577, which was recorded in the original catalog at $20. If you are ready to reimburse us for this title [apparently not found] on the fifty-five percent basis, or $11, we should feel that this whole transaction had been satisfactorily concluded.

OCLC lists only two copies of this Settle, but this one got away.

The file also contains a 10-page list of duplicate titles from the collection which Columbia was trying to sell. At one point the Library of Congress asked if they could have the whole list, except for any post 1870 American titles, to balance their Gift and Exchange account with Columbia which owed LC about $700. That was rejected by Maurice Tauber and negotiations continued with Minnesota, Univ. of Washington, and Catholic Univ.

1953 Letter to EC from 325 E. 79th.

1956 Letter, March 16, describing gifts to be added to Libris Polaris, which he thought remained a separate collection, listing 5 titles, 3 on John Rae.

1958 He subscribed to the Polar Record for a number of years in advance, to continue the run of 27 numbers bought with the collection, and he needed to be assured that it was completing his set.


#1158: Aug. 27, 1925, address on letterhead 612 W. 112th St. Renewal of his AMNH membership and a new one for his wife Emily. Sent from Sunset Maine.

#1290.4, July 18,1929, from 101 Park Ave. To George H. Sherwood [Director, AMNH]. Planning a trip to Greenland east coast with Bob Bartlett for “next summer” and asks for a good book or articles on Arctic flora. Museum sent him a short bibliography.

#1276.1. Copies from EC file. On Feb. 28, 1931 Bassett Jones was Vice President of the EC and chair of the Exec Committee. It was then at 544 Cathedral Parkway. He presided over EC that year.

Jan 12, 1931. Secretary’s report: …the Club is in debt for $1774.30 borrowed from the Library Fund. P. 4 notes the approval of permission for the Library Committee to sell, if possible, 10 sets of the Scoresby Log Books [published by the EC] for not less than $1000, proceeds to go to General Fund.

#1237. Dec. 6, 1932, Director George Sherwood to Bassett Jones, just retired to Nantucket. Concerned an unpaid bill for coloring lantern slides for a Museum lecture Jones had given.

EXPLORERS CLUB Membership file (copies at Columbia)

Obituary Jan. 28, 1960: p. 1: He designed the first theatre floodlights in 1912 for Maude Adams and directed the lighting for her enchanting impersonation of Peter Pan. [In 1923 he was President of General Seafoods Corp. of Gloucester, which was integrated into General Foods in 1926. He had a great interest in ichthyology.]


Loan items:

Lincoln Ellsworth Congressional Medal, lent by Dr. G. F.Kunz. Returned by George L. McKay, Curator

Stefansson Diaries. May 1906 to April 1911, with gaps. Vol. III contained his physical measurements of Eskimos, “red leather, red mottled boards, back broken.”

McKinlay’s typed diary of 1913-18 Expedition (Karluk)

Log of Frederick F. Hoadly’s Greely Relief Expedition (from Stefansson)

Five pictures lent by Laurence Gould. A letter from Jones states only 4.

A rifle presented to Stef.

Operti paintings lent by the EC

Feb. 4, 1932. Bassett Jones was living at 173 Riverside Drive during the exhibit. On February 4 at 3 pm Jones gave a tour of the exhibition followed by a “tea” party. The distinguished group of guests included Mrs. Peary, her nephew, Emil Diedrich, Mrs. Emma de Long, Jones’s mother and his wife, Stefansson, Captain Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence [sic] Gould, Edward Brock, and Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Strong. The most obvious exclusion, who could easily have come, was Matthew Henson.

February 18, 1932, there were misunderstandings between the Club and Jones over the removal of the exhibit books from the Club to Jones’s Riverside drive (hired movers had ignored Jones’s ordering of the boxes and they were all mixed up). And also over the prospect of a catalogue. Letter from Coykendall to H. T. Peters on that date: I guess there is nothing to do but let the matter drop because we cannot issue a Bibliography of Polar Books and expect to sell it in the Club. The only hope for Jones would have been an inexpensive Check List which might have been given away at the Exhibition. But the quantity of material which he brought here makes even this impossible.

March 1, 1932, Letter from Frederick Coykendall, Secretary of the Club to Henry C. Smith concerning Jones’s plans for a catalogue of the exhibit: If I recollect rightly, the night of the exhibition I talked with Jones upstairs and he then repeated his idea that he intended to have a catalogue made for his own purposes and you will recall that in his talk at the meeting he said the catalogue would come out, whether the Grolier Club cared to do it or not. I suppose these misunderstandings must happen with people who are not accustomed to exhibitions. I can only express my regret that Bassett Jones gathered a wrong impression from what I said to him, but it would seem to me that his own judgement would have suggested that a catalogue of upwards of 1200 items would be so expensive that the Club could hardly undertake to give it away at an exhibition and of course as a Club publication it could never be sold. I suppose the best thing to do is to let the matter drop, because no discussion will ever clear it, but I wanted you to understand just what happened.

March 1, 1932. Ltr from Stefansson to H. T. Peters, Chair of the Committee on Arrangements, saying it had been a privilege to introduce the Club to the literature of polar exploration.