A collection tracing the history of climate change and the environment since the dawn of printing is on offer for Â£ 1.65million at Frieze Masters by leading antique bookseller Peter Harrington. With nearly 850 articles spanning the 15th century to this year, it includes first edition books, manuscripts, maps, academic journals, photographs, posters and even 1970s board games and protest badges. .
The idea of ââputting together a complete climate collection was born three years ago “when we realized that there was no such thing now, and we thought there really should be”, explains Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington.
The company required “a lot of groundwork” in researching and sourcing the texts, explains rare book specialist Emma Walshe, because “it brings in a huge amount of material which is quite fresh for us. [in the trade]â. Another challenge was getting editions in “collector’s condition” with their original bindings and packaging intact, Harrington adds.
The first article dates from 1485 and contains one of the first discussions on weather forecasts, by the French astrologer Firmin de Beauval. Walshe is still awaiting a printed copy of the latest report: this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, only available in PDF format for now.
Other highlights include The earthworm, the 1968 photo of the Earth taken during NASA’s Apollo 8 lunar orbit mission; a lithographic portrait of the great German mathematician Alexander Humboldt, pioneer of the concept of human-induced climate change; and the 1873 elephant folio by artist-explorer William Bradford, consisting of photographs from Arctic expeditions.
The set is presented both at the Frieze Masters and at Peter Harrington’s Mayfair Bookstore, titled One hundred seconds before midnight: sound the alarm for climate change. The title refers to the current position of the Doomsday Clock, a symbol created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to measure how close humanity is to the end of the world. Updated annually, the clock has been set to 100 seconds before midnight since January 2020, closer than ever.
The goal, says Harrington, is to find a buyer willing to purchase the entire collection and loan it to an institution for public display. The first reactions before the show were “unanimously strong”, he says. A portion of 10% of the proceeds from the sale will be donated to the World Land Trust conservation charity.