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Remarkable collection of voyages of exploration in the Pacific and Arctic donated to SFU Library
SFU Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books is delighted to announce the Anfield Collection, a prestigious collection of 79 antiquarian books on colonial narratives of exploration and conquest in the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic.
A generous donation from an SFU alumnus
SFU alumnus and donor Frank Anfield’s interest in Indigenous art and his friendship with Bill Reid led to his foundational and ongoing support of SFU’s Bill Reid Centre. Also interested in the history of European voyages in the Pacific region, he painstakingly acquired a remarkable collection of antiquarian books over 50 years. Primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries, the collection includes books by Pacific and Arctic explorers such as James Cook, George Vancouver, Alexander Mackenzie and Roald Amundsen.
As well as donating his extensive collection to SFU Library, Anfield also created a generous endowment to support and maintain the collection over time, and to encourage use of the collection by students, researchers and the public.
“I am delighted that Frank has entrusted his outstanding collection to us,” said Melissa Salrin, Head of Special Collections.
She notes the wide appeal of the collection. The works, many of which include significant maps and illustrations, include European colonial efforts to study and document the geography, oceanography, botany and zoology of the Pacific and the Arctic. “Their value, however, extends beyond the subject matter,” Salrin shared. “The books themselves are in remarkable condition. … As objects they are a delight and anyone with an interest in elegantly produced and preserved works will find pleasant diversion in this collection.”
Colonial approaches to interactions with Indigenous Peoples and land
These expeditions are part of Europe's colonial ambitions in the Pacific. Some of the books in the collection document conflict and violence between the Europeans and Indigenous people, communities and nations. They also record diplomatic interactions between European and Indigenous nations, and provide contemporary accounts of 18th and 19th century Indigenous people, communities and languages.
Within European and Western culture, education and scholarship, there is a long history of valorizing these voyages of colonial exploration and of ignoring the stereotypes and harmful depictions of Indigenous people and culture. In gifting this collection to SFU Library, Anfield has enabled readers to have the opportunity to engage with these colonial perspectives in more nuanced ways, including by reading them alongside archeological records and Indigenous histories (oral and written). As Salrin noted, “We are excited to imagine the possibilities of reading these titles against Special Collections' Hartmut Lutz Collection of Indigenous Literature and the Bill Reid Centre's collections, among others; placing such collections in conversation with each other will lead to deeper understanding. Creating opportunities for reflection and learning is really the hallmark of an institution like SFU Library and we are grateful to donors like Frank who make this possible.”
First woman known to have circumnavigated the world
Many of the 18th century books in the collection document voyages of circumnavigation, as European expeditions sought to be the first to sail around the world.
One example is the first English language edition (published in 1772) of the official French expedition led by navigator Louis de Bougainville. A renowned bestseller, this expedition was distinguished by the inclusion of scholars, cartographers and professional naturalists and geographers, including botanist Jeanne Baré who, in disguise as a man while on board the ship, became the first woman known to have circumnavigated the globe.
Seeking the Northwest Passage
One of the themes of the collection is polar expeditions, especially attempts by European nations to find the Northwest Passage, a navigable sea route through the Arctic that would allow them to establish control of trade and navigation from Europe to East Asia.
A highlight is the first English language edition (published in 1908) of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s 1903-1907 voyage, the first European expedition to successfully traverse the Northwest Passage.
Mapping the Pacific Northwest coast
Many of the unsuccessful voyages in search of the Northwest Passage include accounts of travels throughout the Pacific region, including the Pacific Northwest coast.
British captain James Cook undertook three Pacific expeditions and, on his third voyage (1776-1779), extensively charted the Pacific coast from northern California to the Bering Strait. The Anfield collection includes several editions of Cook’s expeditions, including the first official edition from the British Admiralty (published in 1784), which proved to be so popular in Britain it sold out in three days. The 3-volume work includes an accompanying atlas with maps, charts, and illustrations from the ship’s artist, John Webber.
Another significant British expedition, led by George Vancouver in 1791-1795, was tasked with conducting an extensive survey of the Pacific Northwest coast, a project intended to reinforce Britain’s assertions of sovereignty in the region. As part of this survey, Vancouver became the first European to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. The Anfield collection includes several editions of Vancouver’s voyage, including the first edition from 1798.
Expanding access to the collection
A number of the notable works in the collection have already been digitized by other institutions. However, SFU Library has identified some books which will be digitized and made available online for the first time, expanding access to these valuable works.
SFU Library is grateful to Frank Anfield for this generous donation and invites and encourages students, researchers, and the public to visit Special Collections to engage with this remarkable collection.