One Hundred Seconds to Midnight

Sounding the Alarm for Climate Change

A landmark collection of over 800 original works charting the history of climate change by the world’s greatest writers, scientists and activists – from Aristotle to Attenborough.

The slow realization of the most urgent crisis facing humanity

Presented on the eve of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Peter Harrington is pleased to offer for sale One Hundred Seconds to Midnight; an unparalleled assemblage of original books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and art chronicling the long history of climate change and environmentalism.

In 2015 the World Health Organization declared climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the twenty-first century”. This collection traces the long journey that has brought us to our current, pivotal moment.

Peter Harrington is proud to partner with the World Land Trust on this project and will donate a portion of the sale proceeds to fund their efforts to protect the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats and wildlife.

The One Hundred Seconds to Midnight collection is currently on display at Peter Harrington in Mayfair, London. Price on request. 

Pom Harrington
Owner, Peter Harrington

Emma Walshe
Specialist, Peter Harrington

By Dr Catherine Barnard, CEO of World Land Trust (WLT)

From Aristotle’s Meteorology to Apollo 8’s photograph of Earth from space in 1968, a long chain of knowledge connects us all over the centuries to a past we must learn from; and this is where projects like this come in. As the incredible One Hundred Seconds to Midnight collection attests, understanding of planetary challenges – and the power of collective action to address them – goes back much further than we sometimes think.

WLT are proud to be partnering with Peter Harrington for this collection because it encapsulates, like few others, a maxim that we have seen many times over in our decades of action alongside our conservation partners: people are the driving force of climate change but they can also be its solution. At a time when global warming feels more real than ever, this is a headline people don’t often read – a headline it’s worth not losing sight of as we all too frequently wake up to news coverage of catastrophic events such wildfires in Siberia or deadly floods in Germany.

Treatises, printed accounts, research papers – over the centuries they have charted a story of humankind’s devastation of its home, but the next chapter is as yet unwritten. A chance for a better future still exists and championed by WLT Patrons such as Sir David Attenborough – whose writings are part of this project – we will continue to fight for it by saving the land that all life on Earth relies on. That spirit of hope for a positive next chapter is something that the purchaser of this extraordinary collection will also be supporting, so from WLT and our partners, our thanks to you, and to Peter Harrington for choosing us as their charity partner.


"This is a decade's worth of work. It is the greatest collection for sale on climate change."

– Pom Harrington

Five centuries of climate science

This remarkably comprehensive collection documents over 2,000 years of human thought and experimentation, curiosity and anxiety, action and inaction. Featuring more than 800 works from the fifteenth century to the present day by the world’s greatest scientists, writers, artists, and activists, it comprises rare first editions, signed and association copies, and iconic visual materials.

Books are the ideal prism through which to examine our shared history with the climate: how we have understood, measured, recorded, and changed it. It was in printed works that scientists first announced and debated their discoveries, introducing the ideas and terminology that we are so familiar with today: “greenhouse effect”, “global warming”, and “climate change”.

A particular strength is the collection’s outstanding coverage of nineteenth- and twentieth-century climate science, the fruits of a decade of rigorous curation by the distinguished private collector David L. Wenner.

All the publications mentioned are included in the collection, overwhelmingly in first edition. A full list of all the items, complete with edition statements, condition reports, and further notes, is available on request.

One Hundred Seconds to Midnight refers to the current position of the hands of the Doomsday Clock, a symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock was most recently updated on 27 January 2021. It is now closer to midnight than it has ever been.

Firmin de Beauval’s book is one of the first weather forecasts ever published

Aristotle the first climate scientist

Humans have been studying the climate for nearly 2,500 years. Aristotle, the first natural scientist, wrote Meteorologica as long ago as 350 BCE, a text which remains “the cornerstone of the growth of meteorology into a science” (Frisinger, p. 634). Kept alive in manuscript through the medieval era, Aristotle’s text was introduced to a mass readership when first printed during the Renaissance and helped inspire the nascent climate studies of that new age of discoveries.

However, Aristotle’s Meteorology was beaten to the press in the age of printing by one of the earliest printed works on weather forecasting and a precursor to modern meteorology, In mutationes aeris (1485), compiled by the French astrologer Firmin de Beauval. By pairing contemporary popular knowledge with observations made by his classical and Arabic predecessors, the author used science and folklore to explain the reasons behind local and global climate changes.

Understanding the Earth

A new wave of research into the Earth’s mechanisms swept across Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1596, the Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius developed an early version of what has since become known as continental drift theory – the idea that the Earth is subject to changes in land distribution over time, triggering significant alterations in the climate. It took more than three centuries for the Austrian meteorologist Alfred Wegener to confirm Ortelius’s hypothesis, becoming the first to gather the geological evidence for continental drift in Die Entstehung der Kontinente (1912). Such tectonic movements were later recognized as the underlying cause of global-scale glaciation – a “Snowball Earth” – and seafloor spreading.

The first comprehensive study of the wind since Aristotle’s Meteorology was Francis Bacon’s Historia ventorum (English translation, 1653). Close on his heels was Ralph Bohun, who had been resident tutor to the diarist John Evelyn’s son. His Discourse Concerning the Origine and Properties of Wind (1671) was the first systematic attempt to explain air in all its forms, including trade winds, waterspouts, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

About the same time, the English polymath Edmond Halley hypothesized that air currents were the result of solar heating. To illustrate this, he drafted the first meteorological map ever printed (1687).

Besides meteorologists, medics took great interest in climate. Nathaniel Henshaw, a London physician who practised in Dublin, published Aero-Chalinos (1664), a treatise on the importance of clean air for human health. Others concentrated on the health of the body politic. In his Meteorologia philosophico-politica (1697), the Austrian Jesuit professor Franz Reinzer provided a richly illustrated and encyclopaedic inventory of the geo-physical environment and its effect on morality and politics.

Increased wood-burning in the seventeenth century created two crucial problems: air pollution and timber shortages. Both issues were tackled by John Evelyn in two outstanding environmental texts: Fumifugium (1661) and Sylva (1664). The former, which Evelyn called his “old smoky pamphlet”, is the first English book on pollution. Ambitiously envisioning a beautified London free of choking smoke, Fumifugium is “the most extensive, sophisticated, and ambitious analysis of urban air pollution produced anywhere during the early modern period” (Cavert, p. 174). In Sylva, “the first western publication on forestry” (Williams, p. 89), Evelyn appealed for a national scheme of reforestation. Landowners like the following century’s Francis Mundy defended ancient woodland from enclosure.

Evelyn’s work was part of a wider understanding of the importance of environmental conservation that developed during this period. In 1653, Izaak Walton published The Compleat Angler, a celebration of the undisturbed English countryside marked by a keen appreciation of the harmony between living creatures and their habitats. In addition to being the most famous book on fishing, its advocation for methods of sustainable wildlife management makes it “one of the most important, formative environmental texts in the English language” (Swann, p. x).

But just as Evelyn and Walton were pressing for conservation, fossil fuel extraction was starting to transform the English landscape. In 1665, the English ironmaster Dud Dudley published Mettallum Martis. Marking a pivotal movement in the history of industrialization, this is the first printed account of the use of raw coal in place of charcoal in iron production.

Reinzer’s work is dramatically illustrated with fine large copperplates of meteorological events

Wegener showed the evidence for continental drift

Copperplate engravings depicting cloud formations and air currents from Bohun’s Discourse

The ocean floor, rich in aquatic flora, from Ellis’s survey of corals

Nakanishi’s book on Japanese meteorology contains volvelles to track the passage of the sun

Mairan unveiled the secrets of the Northern Lights

Global understanding

New methods and tools for explaining natural phenomena were unveiled in the eighteenth century. The English antiquary John Pointer published A Rational Account of the Weather in 1723, and a decade later the French geophysicist Jean-Jacques d’Ortous de Mairan was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Sciences to give a scientific explanation of the sun’s role in creating the aurora borealis.

Pointer’s early guide to weather forecasting

Early surveys of coral – now known to be so crucial to our ecosystems – appeared, such as the British linen merchant and naturalist John Ellis’s Essai sur l’histoire naturelle des corallines (1756).

Vast quantities of experimental research circulated, a prime example being Recherches sur les modifications de l’atmosphère (1772) by Jean-André Deluc, a Swiss meteorologist who spent his life perfecting the design of instruments that were critical for measuring atmospheric data.

In Japan, Takafusa Nakanishi published Min’yō seiu benran (1767), the earliest attempt to present a scientific account of the meteorology of Japan based on local observations. One of the earliest Japanese books to contain revolving paper discs (volvelles), it allowed readers to track the passage of the sun and predict the occurrence of precipitation.

In America, Benjamin Franklin’s article “Meteorological Imaginations and Conjectures” (1785) is considered “a milestone in geographical thought” (Payne, p. 1). Franklin was the first to suggest that natural phenomena such as volcanoes and meteors could directly affect the climate. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the geologist and chemist Richard Kirwan made an important contribution to early comparative climatology with his Estimate of the Temperature of Different Latitudes (1787).

Lampadius’s Systematic Outline of Atmospherology established climatology as a separate scientific discipline

Concerns about climate-induced viruses and resource management led to a proliferation of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century pamphlets discussing “climats médicaux”, and William Currie produced the first substantial American study of climatology and epidemiology (1792).

At the turn of the century T. R. Malthus published his hugely influential Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), arguing that, as human population increased inexorably, the planet would be stripped of its resources, leading to pestilence and plague.

Climate science finds its voice

The year 1806 saw the earliest printed use of the term “climatology” in Wilhelm August Lampadius’s Systematischer Grundriss der Atmosphaerologie, as well as one of the first books to use the term “climate” in its title: John Williams’s The Climate of Great Britain.

This proof lithographic portrait of the great environmentalist Humboldt is from the estate of Charles Lyell, author of Principles of Geology (1830–33), who drew heavily on Humboldt’s observations for his work on climatic change

 The father of environmentalism

At the forefront of the rise of modern climate science was the Prussian polymath Alexander von Humboldt, the first person to conceive of the planetary ecosystem as a connected whole and to develop the idea of human-induced climate change. Today he is remembered as the “father of the environmental movement” (Wulf, p. 58).

Humboldt’s exploration of the Americas and his cross-continental comparisons resulted in Ideen zu einer Geographie der Pflanzen (1807), “the world’s first ecological book” (ibid., p. 127). It includes the magnificent large folding plate presenting Humboldt’s “Naturgemälde”, his concept of a holistic, interconnected web of life. Published a year later, Ansichten der Natur, Humboldt’s best-selling work, was heralded by contemporaries as the very “poetry of geography” (Martin, p. 152). Revolutionizing physical geography, Humboldt also devised the concept of the isotherm – contour lines which indicate areas of matching temperature – and published the first map to illustrate them (1817).

Humboldt’s genius was extrapolating a global perspective from his fieldwork. In this regard, the monumental Kosmos (1845–62) was his crowning achievement, revealing nature to be a “living whole” with organisms bound together in a “net-like intricate fabric”.

Humboldt was at the centre of a vast international network of scientists, many of whom also embarked on major voyages to study the natural world. Among the most significant of these were Charles Darwin, who took Humboldt’s Personal Narrative with him aboard the Beagle, and the many intrepid adventurers of the north-west passage, a sea route that at the time was permanently ice-logged but has now become easily accessible due to rising temperatures – a dramatic indicator of our current crisis. Darwin’s contribution to the Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty’s Ships Adventure and Beagle (1839) is his first published book. It is not only the genesis of the Origin of Species but also contains valuable notes on coral reef formation.

Milestone accounts by Robert McClure and Roald Amundsen mark, respectively, the first traversal and first all-water crossing of the north-west passage (1856 and 1908).

Inspired by accounts of the Franklin search expeditions through the north-west passage, the American artist-explorer William Bradford undertook seven Arctic expeditions between 1861 and 1867. The result was The Arctic Regions (1873), a monumental record which remains “one of the nineteenth century’s most spectacular photographically illustrated travel books” (Parr & Badger, p. 31). Comprising some of the best polar photographs in existence, it is also one of the earliest examples of what one might call “eco-art tourism” (Books on Ice, p. 145).

As well as being read by scientists, Humboldt’s work was immensely popular among artists, poets, and politicians. The American transcendentalists revered Humboldt: Walden (1854) was Henry David Thoreau’s “answer to Kosmos” (Wulf, p. 250). Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (1855) and Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1836) were similarly indebted to Humboldt, and were themselves remarkable contributions to the literature of ecology.

A decade later, the American diplomat George Perkins Marsh wrote Man and Nature, now celebrated as the fountainhead of the conservation movement. It was “the first book to recognize the environmental perils of human agency, the first to assess the damage done, and the first to set forth a program of reform” (Lowenthal, p. 227).

Living in a greenhouse

The majority of our knowledge of climate change can be traced back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, when two independent streams of scientific inquiry emerged: concerning the greenhouse effect, and glaciation.

As early as 1856 the “First Lady of Climate Science”, American scientist Eunice Newton Foote, theorized that carbon dioxide directly affected atmospheric temperature in her landmark paper “Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays”. A few years later, across the Atlantic, Irish physicist John Tyndall demonstrated conclusively the physical basis of what we now call the greenhouse effect. Their work was built on foundations provided by Continental scientists such as Joseph Fourier and Claude Pouillet.

In the 1890s two Swedish academics, Svante Arrhenius and Nils Ekholm, paved the way in proving that increases in industrial carbon dioxide emissions specifically were driving global warming. Arrhenius’s climate model, however, was called into question by the physicist Knut Ångström, which hindered research into greenhouse gasses for decades. Ekholm was the first to apply the greenhouse metaphor to the phenomenon (1899), although it was not until 1907 that the exact English phrase “greenhouse effect” was coined by the English physicist John Henry Poynting.

At the same time, a second group of scientists were investigating another driver of climate change: glaciation. The Swiss-American paleontologist Louis Agassiz drew widespread criticism when he advocated for the existence of a European-wide glaciation, a theory delivered in his very rare Neuchâtel Address of 1837. Many of his contemporaries, including the geologist Charles Lyell and evolutionists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, worked to verify or disprove the new glacial hypothesis.

A selection of the most famous names in nineteenth-century climate science

In his revolutionary Études sur les glaciers (1840), Agassiz demonstrated the effects of glacial ice on the landscape of the Alps, thus challenging the legitimacy of the Great Flood myth

Legislating for the future

This scientific focus was intensified, at least in part, by the increased grit and smog caused by the Industrial Revolution, which became a matter of concern for legislators.

A series of major British Acts of Parliament aimed to introduce environmental reforms, including the Alkali Act (1863) and its amendments, the Public Health Act (1875), and the Clean Air Act (1956), to name but a few.

The environmental chemist Robert Angus Smith is best known for discovering and coining the term “acid rain” in an 1859 paper. A year later, while campaigning for the regulation of factory-induced pollution in Manchester, he authored an important article on the role of expert scientific testimony in legal affairs (1860).

Working at the same time, the economist William Stanley Jevons wrote The Coal Question, a treatise questioning the wisdom of using a finite resource such as coal as the basis for English industry.


Left: Smith collaborated with fellow medico-legal
experts to reform the British legal system’s
handling of scientific evidence, as seen
in the collection’s proof copy of his 1860 article, “Science
in our Courts of Law”

Also left: From the Victorian era onwards, a series
of reforms were enacted by the British Parliament,
attempting to clean up the environmental
damage caused by industrialization

The squalor of pollution

William Morris saw the Industrial Revolution as the death knell of nature and, by extension, artistic expression. He asked the audience of his lecture Art and the Beauty of the Earth (1881): “So which shall we have, art or dirt?”

The great writer, philosopher and art critic John Ruskin, a profound influence on Morris, delivered a famous pair of apocalyptic lectures on modern weather that proved to be a prescient crusade against pollution (1884).

During a debate at the Parkes Museum of Hygiene the following year, the British civil engineer Professor Henry Robinson called attention to the ineffectiveness of current legislation on water pollution. He asked listeners to consider the balance to be struck between the conservation of rivers and the interests of industry.

The first truly global catastrophe catalysed a wave of unsettling and unprecedented climatic changes. The eruption of Krakatoa in August 1883 not only extinguished all animal and plant life in the region, but also triggered erratic weather patterns and a slew of far-reaching environmental effects. In the following months and years the world saw tsunamis, eerie sunsets, and a significant drop in global temperatures.


Edwin Lewis’s meticulous barometer readings record almost 40 years of weather data in Rhode Island

First printed in 1689, when it was the first astronomy book published in Japan, this nineteenth-century edition of Tenmon zukai emphasised the importance of accurately predicting cycles of celestial change

 Weather patterns around the world

Efforts to anticipate individual weather events and trace wider, overarching climate variability continued. Robert FitzRoy, former captain of HMS Beagle during Darwin’s famous voyage and founder of the Met Office, was the first meteorologist to issue daily weather forecasts and champion prognostic methods (Weather Book, 1863).

A remarkable example of amateur climatology, Dr Edwin R. Lewis’s handwritten Weather Record compiles twice-daily barometer readings taken over the course of nearly four decades in Rhode Island (1891–1930). These painstaking measurements are paired with contemporary news reportage that exclaims over record-breaking weather and speculates as to its causes.

The ability to accurately predict eclipses was of paramount importance to Japanese society, which believed historically that occurences in the Heavens directed mirrored and forecasted those on Earth. A beautiful late-Meiji edition of Tenmon zukai by the astronomer Tsunenori Iguchi (1897), who helped reform the lunisolar calendar, meticulously records cometary appearances and aids readers in calculating the positions of the planets, the moon, and stars using maps and volvelles.

These efforts culminated in works such as Weather Prediction by Numerical Processes (1922) by Lewis F. Richardson, which remains “the foundation upon which modern forecasting is built” (Lynch, p. 5). The mathematician’s pioneering scheme, which far outstripped computing capabilities of the time, was finally realised with the development of ENIAC several decades later.

The great photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn captured the beauty of America’s wilderness skies

The conservation of soil and water resources became a political priority for Dust Bowl America

A new age of concern

In August and September 1890, two historic articles on wilderness preservation by John Muir paved the way for the National Park System in the US. At around the same time, America’s wilderness was immortalized by Mary Austin’s acclaimed collection of nature writing, The Land of Little Rain (1903), and Alvin Langdon Coburn’s The Cloud (1912). The latter pairs the photographer’s original platinum prints of Yosemite and the Grand Canyon with Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem on the natural cycle of clouds.

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was the first environmental disaster of the modern era in the United States, drawing public attention to the need for better land management and soil conservation.

The iconic texts of the modern environmental movement appeared from the mid-century: A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (1949), Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (1968), and Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson. The latter, Carson’s famous exposé of DDT and pesticides, is regularly referred to as the book that ignited the environmental movement.

Early but equally important works by Carson include the “Sea Trilogy” (1941–55), which established her reputation as a prominent naturalist and popularized marine ecology, and a speech from the same year, “Of Man and the Stream of Time”.

Nature and Science were the two major journals for modern climate change research where many seminal papers by scientists such as Guy Callendar, Charles David Keeling, Syukuro Manabe, Naomi Oreskes, Gilbert Plass, Roger Revelle, and Susan Solomon first appeared.

The phrase “global warming” was popularized by Wallace Broecker’s “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” (1975). Keeling’s 1976 report from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii conclusively confirmed the rapid increase of global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The diagram illustrating this discovery remains “one of the most iconic visualisations of climate change” (Carbon Brief). Other pivotal moments include Esther Applin, Alva Ellisor, and Hedwig Kniker’s 1925 paper on micropalaeontology and the oil industry, the 1956 article in which Plass accurately predicted rising global temperatures 50 years in advance, and research by Camille Parmesan and Gary Yohe on global warming’s effect on living organisms (2003), which is the most cited paper on climate change to date.

The First (1990), Second (1995), and Fifth Assessment (2013) Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided the scientific impetus for the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, and the Paris Agreement respectively.

Leopold and Abbey’s key works, Carson’s “Sea Trilogy”, and Silent Spring

The apocalypse in the public eye

Despite this accumulation of crucial data, climate science remained incomprehensible to many. Climate fiction, or “cli-fi”, made the consequences of climate change real to the popular imagination.

Published the same year as George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Earth Abides (1949) by George R. Stewart portrays a chilling dystopia of an overpopulated world decimated by disease. The classic apocalyptic thriller The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) is considered by the BFI “one of the earliest – and still one of the best – examples of science-fiction cinema tackling ecological concerns”. Similarly gripped by the visual of a sun-scorched earth is Hothouse (1962), a work of speculative fiction by Brian Aldiss. J. G. Ballard explored similar themes in a prescient series of novels written during the 1960s: The Drowned World, The Wind from Nowhere, The Drought, and The Crystal World. Other cautionary tales include Anna Kavan’s Ice (1967) and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods (2007).

Alongside this cli-fi boom, best-selling non-fiction works such as The Population Bomb (1968) by Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich rang neo-Malthusian alarm bells. Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature (1989) was the first book about climate change written for a general audience. The Greenhouse Effect (1980) by Harold W. Bernard provided equally important access to the topic, though it is less well-known today. Later non-fiction such as Al Gore’s milestone book An Inconvenient Truth (2006), released concurrently with the film documentary of the same name, was instrumental in keeping the issue in public view.

The popular consciousness was also stirred by legendary natural historians like David Attenborough and Peter Matthiessen, who advocated a more harmonious balance between human beings and nature. Written to accompany the historic BBC television series of the same name, Zoo Quest to Guiana (1956) is Attenborough’s first book. Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard (1978), which won two National Book Awards, remains “a naturalist and a spiritual classic” (O’Connor). It shares its ethos with The End of the Game (1965), a landmark publication by photographer Peter Beard, whose images captured the horrors of game hunting as part of Africa’s wildlife crisis.

Activism in the face of delay

Despite this growing public awareness about environmental concerns, international policy was slow to respond. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson received the first official briefing on the environmental risk of carbon dioxide. But it was not until 1979 that the US government published the first comprehensive assessment of global climate change due to carbon dioxide: the Charney Report.

While governments prevaricated, catastrophes ensued. The 1967 Torrey Canyon and 1969 Santa Barbara oil spills prompted influential works by David James Bellamy, Robert Easton, and Robert Bernard Clark, each foregrounding marine conservation. The US Air Force’s 1974 official report on the safe disposal at sea of Agent Orange, one of the “Rainbow Herbicides” used by the US military in the Vietnam War, highlighted the damaging environmental effects of modern scorched-earth tactics.

The viability of alternative energies was more actively pursued. Early arguments for solar energy were written by the rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1929) and in 1959 the first conference on thermonuclear fusion in Britain took place. Outside scientific circles, counterculture projects such as Seed: The Journal of Organic Living and the Planet Drum “Bundles” championed sustainable approaches to life.

Organic living with Seed (1972–74)

This fragile Earth

“Earthrise” (1968), the first full-colour view of our planet taken during lunar orbit, was photographed by NASA astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. Photojournalist Galen Rowell celebrated it as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken”, and National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry called it “the most important photograph ever made”. “Earthrise” is also renowned for inspiring James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis’s Gaia hypothesis.

The striking imagery of the international and regional environmental movements owed a debt to NASA’s photography, with “Earthrise” and the “Blue Marble” featuring prominently. Original posters for events like Earth Day and the Whole Earth Festival, and for organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, World Wildlife Fund, and Greenpeace, were designed by established graphic designers and amateurs alike.

Badge pins were mass- and hand-produced to protest everything from nuclear waste and landfill to DAPL and salmon farming. Photograph albums documented grassroots activism and newspapers featured disturbing images of polluted waters and forest fires. Environmental board games hoped to educate players about smog, overpopulation, polluted water, and ecology.

The collection includes a number of rare assemblages and unique personal archives which chart efforts to record climate change. The complete set of seasonal and monthly maps issued by the US Climatology Unit (1943–4) signalled a new approach to climatic zones in cartography.

An album of four scarce reports (1949–51) on the Blue Dolphin Labrador Expeditions record the work of Arctic oceanographer David Nutt, who led the team that first analysed ancient atmosphere in Greenland ice.

The meteorologist Kenn Back’s manuscript log, written during his first posting to Adelaide Island (1963–6), is an outstanding example of early polar science research. Back was part of the British Antarctic Survey, the organization which would, in 1985, discover the hole in the ozone layer.

The papers of British environmental activist Roger Horsley are representative of one individual’s advocation for change at both local and international levels during the 1980s and 1990s.

Gen Z rebellion

Contemporary art criticized the public’s indifference to climate change: Banksy’s controversial Save or Delete (2002) poster for the Greenpeace campaign against deforestation and Shepard Fairey’s Global Warning and The Daily Sun (2009) are two such examples. Activism and philanthropy continue to play a large role in stimulating real change, from the words of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg to Bill Gates.

 Swedish activist Greta Thunberg

Contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey subverts mass media climate change denial

The time is now

Countless words about the climate have been written, edited, printed, shared, and read. The collection offered here encapsulates the highs and lows of this history: the curiosity and horrors; successful experiments and ignored warnings; opportunities and failures. Across more than 500 years of print culture, it charts the slow accumulation of human knowledge against an escalating crisis.

Today, that crisis is upon us. We live in a world of rising temperatures, melting ice caps, extreme weather events, and reduced biodiversity caused by our addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Whether or not these effects can be reversed, this collection tells the story of how we arrived here, at precisely one hundred seconds to midnight.

David L. Wenner

A large part of the scientific component of this collection was formed by the noted private collector David Wenner, whose collection of rare books on the history of modern physics is now held in the Niels Bohr Library & Archives at the American Institute of Physics.

David’s approach to collecting is characterized by exceptional focus, ingenuity, and a decade’s worth of invested time. This has resulted in an unrepeatable collection of original documents on climate science.

His expertise has ensured outstanding coverage of early investigations into the principal drivers of climate change in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: continental drift, plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, variations in solar luminosity, giant impacts, the greenhouse effect, and Milanković cycles.

With the intention of sharing the exceptional offering on climate change and environmentalism with a broader audience, Peter Harrington commissioned multi award-winning wildlife documentary producer John Ruthven to create a 10-minute video. Ruthven has written, produced, and directed numerous award-winning shows for the BBC, Discovery, and National Geographic, including the BBC’s Blue Planet series.

Collection Notes

Public Launch

The One Hundred Seconds to Midnight collection will be publicly exhibited at Frieze Masters, which takes place 13–17 October 2021 at Regent’s Park, London.

Charitable Partnership & Price

Peter Harrington is proud to partner with the World Land Trust on this project and will donate a portion of the sale proceeds to fund their efforts to protect the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats and wildlife.

The collection is priced £1,650,000.


Pom Harrington – Owner, Peter Harrington
Emma Walshe – Specialist, Peter Harrington




Expand for notes

Barry, Roger G. “Short Communication: A brief history of the terms climate and climatology”. International Journal of Climatology, 33, 2013, pp. 1317–20. 

Carbon Brief. “The most influential climate change papers of all time”. 6 July 2015 . 

Carozzi, Albert V. “Editor’s Introduction”, in Studies on Glaciers, Preceded by the Discourse of Neuchâtel, by Louis Agassiz. New York, Hafner, 1967. 

Cavert, William M. The Smoke of London: Energy and Environment in the Early Modern City. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016. 

Druckman, Risha. Excerpt from talk, “Francis Bacon and the History of the Winds: Elite Scholarship and Popular Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century England”. American Historical Association, 2014. 

Fleming, James Rodger. Historical Perspectives on Climate Change. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998. 

Frisinger, H. Howard. “Aristotle and his ‘Meteorologica’”. Bulletin American Meteorological Society, 53: 7, July 1972, pp. 634–8. 

Jackson, Roland. “Eunice Foote, John Tyndall and a Question of Priority”. Notes and Records, 74, February 2019, pp. 105–118. 

Lowenthal, David. “Marsh’s Man and Nature at 150”. The George Wright Forum, 32: 3, 2015, pp. 227–37. 

Lynch, Peter. “The origins of computer weather prediction and climate modeling”. Journal of Computational Physics, 2007, pp. 1–14. 

Lyons, Kevin. “BFI Recommends: The Day the Earth Caught Fire”. British Film Institute, 26 May 2020 . 

Martin, Alison E. Nature Translated: Alexander von Humboldt’s Works in Nineteenth-century Britain. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2018. 

“Humboldt’s legacy”. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 2019, pp. 1265–6. 

O’Connor, M. R. “Peter Matthiessen’s ‘The Snow Leopard’ in the Age of Climate Science”. The New Yorker, 30 December 2018 . 

Parr, Martin, & Gerry Badger. The Photobook: A History, volume I. London, Phaidon, 2004. 

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