Date: 27 June 2012
Wind Speed: 10 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -28C
One of the books this season from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans is unusual amongst the ones I have worked on for having a British Antarctic Expedition bookplate. This seems to suggest that it was somehow formally acquired for the expedition, or belonged to someone in the habit of marking their books this way. Could the use of official stationary indicate that this was Scott’s own copy? It is always tempting to try and ‘place’ an artefact with a specific expedition member (and usually one of the more famous ones), but in reality comparatively few artefacts can ever be positively linked to an individual, and usually only then because it has been signed or had a name tag sewn on.
The book is ‘The Green Flag’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and is a compilation of short stories about army life. Back in England, Captain Scott was a member of Sheringham Golf Club, and it just so happened that the author was a member at the same time too – so presumably they knew each other. Interestingly, there was also a member there called Moriarty!
Book after treatment, showing bookplate; British Antarctic Expedition, 1910 © AHT/George
And what about the initials printed in blue ink at the corner of the book plate; ‘R.J.S.’? The only luck I have had so far in finding an R.J.S. in relation to the expedition is Robert Falcon Scott’s cousin; Robert Julian Scott. Born at Plymouth, Devonshire in 1861, Julian later immigrated to New Zealand where he became professor of engineering at Canterbury College in Christchurch. It is known that Scott visited him before heading south.
Scott's cousin, Robert Julian Scott, lived & worked in Christchurch, NZ
So, in the tradition of the great detectives, has the case of the mystery book been solved? Well, no, not really. The evidence is scant and circumstantial at best, and, for the moment at least, the investigation remains open.