ROBINSON DE L'AIR Illustrations de G. Dutriac. Paris, Ernest Flammarion, Éditeur... Droits de traduction et de reproduction réservés pour tous les pays, y compris la Suède et la Norvège. [n.d. but 1907
-1908.]. Large 8vo, pp. [vi], 503,  blank; with frontispiece, double-page map of the North Pole, and 46 illustrations, several full-page; paper a little browned and foxed due to quality; in the original red publisher’s cloth, with bevelled edges, all edges gilt, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, upper cover with mounted chromolithograph label of a polar bear on an ice flow, watching the arrival of an airship, blindstamped and lettered in gilt, with publisher’s monogram in blind on rear cover, head and tail of spine a little bumped, some soiling to spine, upper joint slightly cracked at head, lower joint with small split at tail, extremities lightly bumped; a good copy. First edition, handsomely published, of this romantic adventure story, and the work of the popular writer Emile-Augustin-Cyrpien Driant (1855-1916), writing under his pseudonym of Captain Danrit.
A French balloon, the ‘Patrie’ breaks free from its moorings, after an act of sabotage, setting adrift balloonist officer Lieutenant Georges Durtal, and Christiane de Soignes, whom Durtal had invited onboard. Driven by a storm the balloon reaches Norway, where it is picked up by an American billionaire aboard his yacht, who offers to hire the intrepid pair to help him win a bet to reach the North Pole. Durtel accepts and thus begins an exciting race to the Pole, against the backdrop of ensuring that the airship does not fall into German hands.
Driant drew inspiration from two unsolved mysteries of the day: the disappearance of the Swedish explorer Salomon Andrée’s 1897 expedition across the Arctic, and the 1906 disastrous flight of the French dirigible, the ‘Patrie’ which had disappeared at sea. In the present novel, the airship crash lands on the ice floe, the intrepid pair heading off on foot towards the North Pole. There they discover a Swedish flag, no doubt planted by members of the Andrée expedition, before discovering human remains in a nearby cave.
This tale of derring-do was also serialised in Le Journal des Voyages from October 18, 1908 to May 2, 1909.
Driant joined the military shortly after 1871, and went on to lead a distinguished career. He began writing and publishing in 1889, his military experiences very much forming a backdrop for most of his works. He attention turned fully to writing upon his retirement in 1905, when he began a career as a journalist, and continuing to publish fictional works. When war was declared in 1914, he asked to return to service, and was eventually killed during the battle of Bois des Caures in February 1916.
Bibliography: See https://www.danrit.fr.