Exploration of Canada's northern limits attracted attention in Europe as early as 1576–78 when Martin Frobisher carried out his expeditions to the Arctic. He brought back to England an Inuit man and woman, and the drawings of them by John White are among the earliest visual evidence of these native peoples of Canada. Adventurers continued to explore the Arctic in search of a trade route to the South Seas by way of a northern passage. Among the numerous published accounts of these voyages is the book by Henry Ellis entitled A Voyage to Hudson's Bay by the Dobbs Galley and California in the Years 1746 and 1747. This book, published in 1748, is of particular interest because it contains two of the very few illustrations of the Canadian Inuit in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century accounts of North America.
Not until the nineteenth century was it usual to include a professional artist among the crew on a voyage. In the eighteenth century, the illustrations accompanying written travel accounts were provided by a trained artist at home who had never seen the subjects with his own eyes. The picturesque and decorative aspects of the illustrations were more important to the publisher than their anthropological accuracy. An examination of the engravings included in Ellis' book shows how the eighteenth-century European, and more specifically the English, chose to view the Inuit. The way the artist portrayed these people reflected the condescending attitude of the English. They regarded the Inuit as an uncivilized people whose habits and customs nevertheless provided much interest and often amusement.