Sir John Franklin (1786-1847)
H.M.S.Resolute. - a 'theatre flyer' on silk for the 'Theatre Royal, Melville Island', 'Melville Island Press, November 23d. 1852'. Visible area: 18.8 x 35.3cm. 8 line preamble headed by a woodcut vignette, 38 lines of doggerel verse and a single line imprint: Prologue/to the opening of the/Theatre Royal, Melville Island;/H.M.S. Resolute; Capt. H.Kellett, C.B./November 23d. 1852./Written for the occasion, by G.F.McDougall Esq. and spoken by/Dr. W.T.Domville; in character, as the "Hyperborean King"./'Tis now some two and thirty years ago,/This region of eternal Ice and Snow,/Was first discovered, by one Edward Parry;/Who near this spot eleven months did tarry...But hark! a Bell! ah! that's a hint to close my long oration;/Theyre anxious to appear my friends, to gain your approbation:/But remember they're beginners! and I know fondly reckoned,/On your kindness, to gloss lightly o'er, the faults of Charles the Second./Melville Island Press. Framed and glazed.
A VERY RARE EPHEMERAL ITEM, PRINTED IN THE ARCTIC.
The Resolute under the command of Captain Henry Kellett (1806-1875) formed part of the squadron of five vessels under the overall command of Sir Edward Belcher which represented the final government-backed attempt to establish the fate of Sir John Franklin's expedition. "In February 1852 Kellett commissioned the Resolute for the search of Sir John Franklin...Going up Baffin's Bay and through Lancaster Sound, the Resolute wintered at Melville Island. In August 1853 she was driven out of her winter quarters and passed the next winter in the pack. On 15 May 1854 she was abandoned by positive orders from Belcher and contrary to Kellett's strongly expressed views..., with which naval opinion has generally concurred" (DNB). During the Arctic winter, boredom was one of the great enemies and theatrical entertainments supplied a welcome diversion from enforced inactivity. Earlier expeditions had established what almost amounted to a tradition of mounting entertainments and 'publicising' them with play-bills and flyers printed on small ship-board steam-presses. Most of these very rare 'incunables' of Arctic literature were printed on paper, but the present work is technically more competent, being printed on silk.