The beauty of ice-capped mountains in the Antarctic ideally introduces a selection of books for Christmas. The Roof at the Bottom of the World (Yale, £25) is Edmund Stump’s panoramic canvas of a region of the world that few people have the chance to visit. It reveals a stunning wilderness of peaks, a continental range, that may be classed as one of the earth’s last great discoveries.

If there is a true explorer in this modern age, it must be Stump, a scientist, mountainer and, above all, cameraman who has travelled this enchanting domain with a sharp lens and poetic sense.

The book may be attractive enough on this basis, but Stump travels beyond it to include the discoveries of such eminent Polar explorers as James Clark Ross, Scott, Amundsen, Shackleton and Byrd and the hardships they endured.

The author has followed in the wake of their expeditions to bring this remote region to the fireside with all the drama of the past and all the haunting beauty of the present.

Two other books by Yale are classics in terms of visual art. Empire to Nation (£40) by Geoff Quilley looks at the maritime heritage of our nation from Cook’s first circumnavigation of the world to Turner’s masterpiece on the battle of Trafalgar, while Imperial Landscapes by John E. Crowley visits the far corners of the world in search of colonial art that creatively reflects the dawn of the British Empire.

With their outstanding array of paintings and illustrations, these books are romantic treasures of history when Britain ruled the waves.

Straying into wartime, Oxford publisher Osprey has produced a riveting book on the early years of Britain’s elite special forces entitled The SAS in World War ll (£20) by Gavin Mortimer.

The story begins with David Stirling’s creation of daredevil unit to attack Rommel’s forces in Libya. Hence the Long Range Desert Group was formed, causing havoc for the Axis in the desert war, and going on to fight in the Italian campaign and the D-Day landings before witnessing the aftermath of atrocities in the Belsen concentration camp.

Stirling, known as the Phantom Major, could have no better biographer than Mortimer nor could the SAS legend be so well depicted.

The New Atlas of World History (Thames and Hudson, £32) by John Haygood sums it all up with an outstanding cartographic portrayal of events, places and people as they dovetailed with each other in different periods of history.

This is a creative atlas, supported by Haygood’s deep insight over a six-million-year cast of time that brings into focus the world’s cultures and religious faiths, inventions and discoveries. Of especial interest are the colour-coded maps, which are particularly useful in enhancing the study of wars and empires.