[Original Manuscript Sketchbook of the H.M.S. Challenger Expedition, 1872-1874]
[H.M.S. Challenger. 1873]. Oblong quarto sketchbook. (9½ x 12½ inches). Thirty-six leaves, including illustrated titlepage and thirty-five ink and watercolor illustrations, all but titlepage in full color.
Original printed wrappers, backed in later tape. Inscribed, "William Gurling. H.M.S. Challenger. Sydney. Australia," on front wrapper verso. Covers worn. Some minor soiling internally, but overall clean, bright, and in very good condition, with most tissue guards remaining.
The remarkable original watercolor sketchbook of Benjamin Shephard from the historic scientific voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger. In 1968, J. Welles Henderson, collector, historian, and founder of the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, discovered the sketchbook in an antique shop in Boston. He purchased the volume and soon showed it to Harris B. Stewart, an oceanographer and member of the Maritime Museum's Underwater Advisory Board, who agreed that the drawings added "a delightful artistic postscript to the volumes already written about what is still considered the greatest of all oceanographic expeditions" (Stewart and Henderson, p.). In 1972, on the centennial of the Challenger's launch, the Philadelphia Maritime Museum published a facsimile volume of the sketchbook, with an introduction and detailed commentary by Stewart and Henderson accompanying each plate.
During their research on the sketchbook, Henderson and Stewart discovered that Benjamin Shephard was a cooper who served during the entire voyage of the H.M.S. Challenger from November 1872 to May 1876. Shephard was born at Brixton in Surrey in 1841, entered the navy in 1862, and died in Australia from tuberculosis in 1874 at the age of 45. "Evidently," Handerson and Stewart write, "he found work not particularly to his liking, as he was promoted and demoted several times during his 25-year career." He paid significant attention to his Challenger sketchbook, however, creating a series of "magnificently done" watercolors that show the work of a skilled and observant amateur.
The sketches are all approximately 6 x 9¾ inches, each featuring a view of the ship and framed with a caption-bearing garter. Following the attractive pictorial titlepage, they begin with a fanciful scene of the Challenger dredging the sea floor, with mermaids guiding the net below and bestowing it with shells and an old anchor. Stewart and Henderson note that like the sailors on most oceanographic expeditions, "those aboard the H.M.S. Challenger, although intrigued by the work of the scientists, were more interested in the ports which punctuated the long periods of observations at sea. Thus Shephard, with few exceptions, concentrated on painting not the scientific work at sea but rather the Challenger at her various ports of call." Twenty-five of the watercolors are port or other coastal views, covering Madeira, St. Thomas, Bermuda, Halifax, St. Michael's, St. Vincent, St. Paul's Rocks, Fernando Noronha, Tristan de Cunha, Capetown, Prince Edward Island, Crozet Island, Kerguelen Island, and McDonald Island. Many of these depict other ships and boats, with forts, towns, and the occasional lighthouse in the background. Non-coastal scenes include one of a violent storm in the Gulf of Florida, a particularly attractive view of the ship at full sail "on her way to St. Paul's Rocks," and six sketches of the Challenger sailing, dredging, and firing guns among the Antarctic icebergs.
A beautiful and important visual record of what Howgego has called "the most detailed and extensive examination of the world's oceans in the history of exploration.
Howgego N5; [Benjamin Shephard]: Challenger Sketchbook B. Shephard's Sketchbook of the H.M.S. Challenger Expedition 1872-1874 Prepared and Edited for Publication by Harris B. Stewart, Jr. and J. Welles Henderson (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 1972).