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The one Matt wrote!


1912 - original (shown at left without a dust jacket)
A Negro Explorer at the North Pole : An Autobiographical Report by the Negro Who Conquered the Top of the World With Admiral Robert E. Peary

by Matthew Henson, 1912.
Matthew Henson wrote his account of the trip to the North Pole, published in 1912. The term "Black" (for an African American) was not used during his life. But both reprints of his book have changed his title to "A Black Explorer.." from "A Negro Explorer..." Matt's book is now quite rare and a copy with a dust jacket is worth $3000. The one shown at left cost me $650.

Here is a typical available copy we saw in 1999 (as an example): Henson, Matthew A. A Negro Explorer At The North Pole. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912. 8vo. Pp. xx, 200. Half title. frontis portrait. Photo illustrations. Portrait of Henson on front cover. An exceptionally fine, bright, and crisp copy in original blue cloth. Lettering in white, no stains or bumping of corners. An extremely scarce title written by Peary's assistant on most of his expeditions to the north. With an introduction by Booker T. Washington and forward by Peary. Book # 64 C$ 2650.00 (approx. 1,831.39 American Dollars) The Seller: Deckle Edge Books Ltd. , Box 64 , Delta , ON , Canada , K0E-1G0 , Email sbergey@yknet.yk.ca


1969 (Walker and Company, New York)–Censored reprint sold for $4.50
(Censored version) Reprint - hardcover: Titled changed to: A Black Explorer at the North Pole
Walker did not like the discussions about Matt as a Negro in the two introductions. So they deleted the opening paragraph by Robert E. Peary, (just some old white guy...) and tossed out a few other paragraphs Peary wrote while they were at it! Walker also censored Booker T. Washington (famous African American) by expurgating two entire pages of his introduction!
While they were at it Walker and Company ejected Matt's chapter (Appendix I) about Esquimos (that is how it was spelled then) and removed his Appendix II which lists all the names of all the Esquimos in Smith Sound. While this later item may seem useless it is not. It is a wonderful resource for all the names with the pronunciations. (The ©2000 version by Bradley Robinson restores all these lost portions of Matt's book) While Walker was censoring the content and throwing out parts they didn't like they also decided to illustrate it with "contemporary photos". As if the photos Matt used were not good enough?
In fact, the best photos are missing! Who needs to see the famous shot of Matt when he returned from the Pole? Who wants to see the 4 Eskimos who accompanied them to the Pole? (You see one Eskimo, you've seen them all, right?) So what if one of them, Ootah, saved Matt from drowning shortly before reaching the Pole? In fact Walker put in a photo to show us what a dog sledge is. Only problem is that it is NOT a Peary sledge like Matt built. A bored looking white guy dumbly holding a whip stares at the disinterested dogs laying on the ground. Way to go Walker!

But this is the first reprinted edition of the 1912 book. So we should be grateful. Aside from the depressing changes mentioned above it is a very accurate reproduction. They used Matt's original book for camera ready artwork to make offset printing plates ( the pages they did not delete). Technically it is a photo-reproduction. Scarce availability from used bookstores. Surviving copies are expensive ($100 to $300) Try here: http://www.bookfinder.com, or forget about it


1989 (Bison Book Edition) – $8 paperback and politically correct

Renamed: A Black Explorer at The North Pole... (here we go again...)

Paperback reprint with an obtrusive contemporary intro. (This book does not need a third introduction to compete with men as famous as Peary and Booker T. Washington) Bison chose to perpetuated a "politically correct" title. Bison also rejected Matt's Appendix II. On the bright side, a map was added for those who do not know where Greenland is located. Wasn't that thoughtful? Sold for $8.00.

Sometimes a copy shows up on ebay. Or try this: http://www.bookfinder.com , or forget about it.


1991 (Reprint Services Corp)–Overpriced, lowest quality
Reprint - hardcover: A Black Explorer at the North Pole (with matching black cover)

Hardcover printed December 1991 by Reprint Services Corp; ISBN: 0781281776. What is strange about this version is that it is a photocopy of an original edition. It is not printed. High enough quality that you won't mind until you look at the illustrations. Remember what happens when you photocopy a magazine article and the pictures turn out so black you can hardly view them? That is what has happened here, also. The photos are all ruined - so poorly rendered that they should not have been used.

To compliment the "black blob" photos inside this publisher choose the imaginative cover art shown at left. Nice.

This "xerox" of a 1912 book sells for $59. Is that insulting or what? Why wasn't the text simply retyped to make a new manuscript? Why weren't the photos professionally scanned, restored and reproduced? Why? Because that would have taken effort. Why bother for some dead black guy, eh? A strange version of Matt's book without viewable pictures.$59.00– Buy it from Amazon.com if you really have to have one...or don't/

Do I dislike this edition? Absolutely! It just doesn't get any worse, quality wise, than this one. Forget about it!

The free edition
Free PDF download!

Go to download: Click here

Website give away; a free edition in Adobe PDF for educational use! Go to download: Click here

He's back! Matt is back in print for the first time, ever, in electronic form! There is no need to charge you for a traditionally published paper based book; no poorly rendered $59 photocopies! No censorship, no portions left out! Henson's book has been accurately reproduced for educational use. Free! No charge, no registration, etc. Free, free, free, Get it? Sure you can! It is 9MB in PDF to download. Then you may read it on your computer, save as a file, or print out what you want. Researchers, teachers, students, and Henson fans of all ages will love this edition!

Absolutely accurate! No politically correct titles! Complete Peary and Booker T. Washington introductions. First ever edition (since 1912) to include Matt's Appendix II. No "new" introductions from persons who think they need to explain what Matt, Peary, or Booker T. Washington already said!!!!! No added maps for people who don't know where Greenland is!

A father and son introduction
Bradley Robinson was the first person to reprint a portion of Matt's book in 1947.

"Bravo! Or as Matt said at the Pole in 1909 "Hip! Hip! Hurray!" This is now my favorite edition of Henson's book. Robinson is to be congratulated for releasing a free version. Although there is no cost to us, he obviously spent considerable time and effort to make a virtual reproduction. This PDF version is faithful to the Frederick Stokes & Co. 1912 original."

Bradley Robinson


Finally Matt's wonderful book is being professionally republished!
Three cheers for Rowan Jacobsen and Allen Counter! Hip! Hip! Hurray!

Rowan Jacobsen,
196 Edwin's Pond Rd.,
Rochester, VT 05767



Uh, oh! Racist Introduction???
This 2001 Edition by Cooper Square Press has an introduction by Robert Bryce some consider racist. The publisher took the photos from the Widget Magic edition without permission.  


1947 (USA) & 1948 (UK Edition)
Dark Companion

About The Author (from the 1947 dust jacket)
Bradley Robinson is a young author of alert talent who has a fine ability to interpret personalities important in our country's history in the light of today's values. Although Mr. Robinson had long been familiar with stories of Matthew Henson's heroic exploits in the Arctic, the two had never met prior to the day of the funeral of the beloved Captain Bob Bartlett in April of 1946. From then until the finished manuscript was turned over to the publisher, Bradley Robinson and Matthew Henson worked in close collaboration writing this unique story of the greatest undertaking in the history of American exploration. One that gives the the very feel of the ice wilderness, of Arctic hunting, of the life of the Eskimos, among whom Henson is a legendary figure held in great affection. “Matthew Henson was a great explorer”, says Bradley Robinson simply in his dedication. “The honor goes to him. This is his story.”

A used copy: ROBINSON, Bradley Dark Companion NY McBride 1947. Forward by Commander Donald B. MacMillan. Introductions by Peter Freuchen and Vilhjalmur Stefansson. A couple of short tears at the top of one page, a little general wear, a very good copy lacking the dust wrapper. The story of Matthew Henson's journey with Peary, told in a novelistic format. On the verso of the front fly is a gift inscription that reads: "For Gordon Smith - In remembrance of one evening last winter when we saw the hero of this book - one of the great explorers of our time. Leonard Moody Oct. 28, 1947." Below this inscription the book is Inscribed by Henson himself: "Matthew A. Henson June 9, 1949. After facing perils, overcoming great risks and difficulties which meant life or death to both Peary and myself, I considered it an honor to be one of the discoverers of the North Pole." A splendid sentiment and an exceptionally scarce autograph. Book # 33604 US$ 1200.00 The Seller: Between the Covers, ABAA , 35 W. Maple Avenue , Merchantville , NJ , U.S.A. , 08109 Phone (856) 665-2284 / Fax (856) 665-3639 , Email mail@betweenthecovers.com


1967 Paperback
Dark Companion
Robinson, Bradley Dark Companion CT Fawcett (1967) Reprint edition. Binding is paperback.

Complete account of Matt's life. Well researched, well written - the only biography written with Henson. All the details of how he ran away from home, went to sea with Captain Childs on the Katy Hines and later met Peary. Well written accounts of the expeditions Henson made with Peary and his life after the Pole. Reveals the racial prejudice which kept Matt from receiving the honors he truly deserved. Author Robinson let the reader discover that Matt reached the Pole first without sharing Peary's hostile reaction as later authors have. The publication of this book in 1947 brought to Matt a great deal of attention about his historic role. As a result his last 7 years were filled with interviews, awards and even his visit to see President Eisenhower at the White House.


1999 Restored Edition
Dark Companion
This is Matt's only official biography, this was the book which made him famous! We are fortunate that Robinson was a first rate writer and Matt's life story could not be old better than if his mentor Ernest Hemingway had written it. The author's son has restored the manuscript into modern electronic form. Now you can enjoy the large, letter size, pages on acid free paper. Razor sharp laser printing in beautiful, classic Adobe Garamond 14 pt. typeface. With 5 pages of restored photos, some duotones, others colorized. Now available through Amazon.com- $24.95

Or you may purchase it directly from this website by mailing a check for $24.95 Email us to place your order. Or fax a request directly to 650-961-3824


Polar Legacy, Black White and Eskimo
1991, by S. Allen Counter, Ph.D.
Counter discovered the descendants of both Matt and Peary among the Northern Greenland Eskimos. Yes, Matt and Peary both had Eskimo sons! Counter brought them to the United States to visit their American relatives. An amazing discovery, a wonderful story - Counter has a big heart for Matt Henson! An overview of the book is available at his personal website at Harvard. This site has a special page devoted to Allen Counter. You can follow the link there to purchase this book, so far sold only by MG Publishing.

My review at Amazon.com:
This is one of the happiest endings you will ever read that really happened! Negro explorer/assistant to commander Peary, Matt Henson, left behind an Eskimo son as did Peary himself after they reached the North Pole. Back in the civilized world Negro Henson lived in obscurity while white man Peary claimed the gold medals. But Peary died in 1920 and Matt Henson became a favorite member of the New York Explorers club. After WW2 his biography started the process of awareness concerning his invaluable role with Peary. Determined as the rightful co-discoverer of the North Pole his honors have come late. He received the Navy medal and visited Eisenhower in the White House just before his death in 1955.

This book by Dr. Allen Counter is a celebration of the reunion he made of the Peary and Henson Eskimos with their American relatives after 80 years of separation. The author had Henson reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery, next to Peary's grave, with full military honors. Henson's American and Eskimo families were present. Later Counter worked to have a Naval ship, the USNS Henson, named for this amazing man who the Eskimos called "Matthew the Kind one." Counter's book is full of family discoveries & reunion, hope, inspiration and charm. His work for Henson continues today as he encourages the best and brightest of Hollywood to make a film worthy of Henson.

A highly significant book to honor one of history's most amazing African-American heroes.

NEW! 2002