John Rae is best known today as the first European to reveal the fate of the Franklin Expedition, yet the range of Rae’s accomplishments is much greater. Over five expeditions, Rae mapped some 1,550 miles (2,494 kilometres) of Arctic coastline; he is undoubtedly one of the Arctic’s greatest explorers, yet today his significance is all but lost. John Rae, Arctic Explorer is an annotated version of Rae’s unfinished autobiography. William Barr has extended Rae’s previously unpublished manuscript and completed his story based on Rae’s reports and correspondence—including reaction to his revelations about the Franklin Expedition. Barr’s meticulously researched, long overdue presentation of Rae’s life and legacy is an immensely valuable addition to the literature of Arctic exploration.
- Winner, Scholarly and Academic Book of the Year | Alberta Book Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta 2020
"The autobiography breaks off mid-way through his last expedition and in mid-sentence at the bottom of a page.... William Barr edits with self-effacing thoroughness, interpolating passages of correspondence to fill lacunae in the narrative, adding copious notes, and appending mini-biographies of the people who travelled with Rae. Notwithstanding its truncation, the torso of autobiography that remains is an impressive one." Times Literary Supplement, June 14, 2019- Jonathan Dore
"Barr is a superb editor and annotator. He links portions of the text together by inserting Rae's correspondence with senior officials in the HBC and the British government. While Rae's manuscript ends on April 15, 1854, Rae expertly relates the final 39 years of the explorer's life in a mere 16 pages.... Impressive is often overused. It should be reserved for works such as this that leave an impression on a reader's mind of the nineteenth century explorers who not only opened up new vistas but wrote about them in words that embody the spirit of adventure that set them loose in the unknown."- Gary C. Stein
"...Barr's editorial work--particularly the extensive and very informative endnotes--deserves high commendation. The volume also contains several excellent maps.... John Rae, Arctic Explorer is a major contribution to the literature of northern exploration."- Janice Cavell
"Barr’s skillful editing of the unfinished autobiography is a meticulous enterprise, based not only on the surviving manuscript but on other primary sources. It’s a book you’ll dip into while anchored somewhere comfortable, evening after evening, entranced by the understated narrative.... This monumental volume is a tribute to a truly remarkable arctic traveler and voyager, whose achievements leave one breathless with admiration. In a way, this 648-page book is a true page-turner, largely because Rae writes so humbly about his extraordinary journeys and carries you with him." Good Old Boat, Vol. 2, No. 7, May 2019 [Full review at https://audioseastories.com/bkr-rae]- Brian Fagan
"John Rae...spent ten years as resident physician at Moose Factory. Then, in 1846 he launched his career as an explorer when he participated in a survey of Committee Bay. A year later, he started a six-year search for the missing Franklin Expedition, and finally revealed its tragic fate.... William Barr... has produced a well rounded and important volume about this significant explorer."- Alberta History