Reviews and Awards
From The Arctic Book Review:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
Arctic Spectacles is a magnificent polar book that deserves the highest ovation . . . this is the most enjoyable study of Arctic visual fascinations yet published. We are encouraged to look beyond the pole, beyond a monotonous account of the daily events of exploration life, to consider a broader, more nuanced, and joyously more colourful culture of exploration – as told by its showmen, performed in theatres, reported in newspapers and read by the fireside.
From Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
This is a scholarly, extremely well-written book which interlinks 19th-century arctic exploration with the exposition of the Arctic in artistic and literary forms. The book is pleasing to the eye in many senses. The illustrations are evocative and well-chosen. The frequent play on words, not least in the title, engages the reader. The author’s stated premise for writing the book is the fascination of western culture with the arctic regions. The time period considered, 1818–1875, much more than during the present, was a time when the Arctic was ‘‘imagined yet unseen" . . . In addition to being a fascinating contribution to the study of the history of arctic exploration, the book is a welcome addition to the study of images, whether literal or metaphorical, and should be enjoyed by all those interested in the Arctic, or ‘‘The Frozen North.’’
From The Journal of Popular Culture:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
Potter’s fine study—the work of over a decade’s research and collecting—forcefully shows how the Arctic imagination in the nineteenth century was constructed through a visual vocabulary sourced in the aesthetic of the sublime, but directed also, under the pressure of historical events, toward melodrama, horror, sensationalism, and voyeuristic curiosity. The publishers at University of Washington Press are also to be congratulated for this beautifully produced book, which contains dozens of plates and illustrations, a wealth of primary sources from nineteenth-century popular culture, and a helpful annotated checklist of Arctic shows and entertainments.
From Terrae Incognitae:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
The period of heroic effort in the far North deeply engaged the British public and, indeed, much of the West, and it still fascinates historians of exploration … but not much work has been done on the visual culture of the Arctic that these voyages inspired, partly because most of it was concentrated in the huge, popular painted panoramas of the first half of the 19th century, which have not survived. By the time publications like the Illustrated London News appeared in the 1840’s, Arctic exploration was nearing its climax. The disappearance of the Franklin expedition in the late 1840’s, and the decade-long search for him that followed did, however, generate an enormous amount of attention in the press, and a rich stock of visual imagery from the later period is available for study … What was needed was a book that showed us what this visual culture looked like and examined its development over time in some detail. Russell A. Potter’s book, Arctic Spectacles, does just that. Potter, an English professor at Rhode Island College, has been collecting Arctic material for years and displaying it at his website, at He has done an outstanding job of reconstructing the appearance and, perhaps more importantly, the social ambiance of the vanished panoramas.
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
Potter (English, Rhode Island College) reconstructs the "visual culture" of the 19th century, including such vanished pay-for-view forms as huge panorama paintings, moving panoramas (paintings spooled out past the viewer's eyes), cycloramas, giant easel paintings, and the then-new illustrated magazine. . . .  this is a well-written book that fills a little-known area in studies of both Victorian culture and Arctic history.
From Alaska History:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
It is the evolution of Arctic imagery that Russell Potter traces in a narrative tinged with an artistic bent and the literary skills of the English professor he is ... Both the casual reader and the scholar will find Arctic Spectacles revealing and thought-provoking.
From Book News:
Arctic spectacles; the frozen North in visual culture, 1818-1875.
Potter, Russell A.
U. of Washington Press, ©2007    258 p.    $35.00    G608
Whether they were gentlemen of science or proletarians who had to go to pubs to hear novels read to them, Victorians loved the exotic Arctic and yet dreaded it as a place of death. Here Potter (English, Rhode Island College) closely analyzes the range of this peculiarly Victorian fascination, covering the complete range of literary and visual efforts, including Ross's accounts of the fictitious Münchausen and serious treatments of actual voyages, works that focused on sensational death above all, and the relatively few works that captured the real beauty of the Arctic apart from the misunderstandings and myths. The illustrations here are especially well-chosen, so much so that readers may need to put on a sweater. (Annotation ©2007 Book News Inc. Portland, OR)  
Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North In Visual Culture, 1817 - 1875 unveils the phenomenon of the 19th. Century fascination in Western culture for the Arctic regions and how this part of the world, unseen by the majority of the public, was depicted through time. The book illustrates the Arctic region in various 'new media' from the traditional fine arts to engravings, panoramas, magic lantern slides, photographs and describes the display of true Inuit's in a cabinet of Arctic curiosities. The far North remained a largely mysterious world described by early adventures. 'Arctic Spectacles' offers a wonderful insight in both, artistic & commercial images as seen in the illustrated press alongside the challenging stories of early Arctic explorers. (Thomas Weynants, Media Archaeology, Belgium)
Shortlisted for the 2008 William Mills Prize for Non-Fiction Polar Books.
Honorable Mention for the 2008 NASOH (North American Society for Oceanic History) John Lyman Award for “Science and Technology."
AAUP Book Jacket and Journal Show: Winner, Trade Illustrated Category, Best Design -- Ashley Saleeba, designer; Jacqueline Ettinger, Acquiring Editor; Jonathan Dore and Mary Ribesky, Project Editors.