Papers of: Sabine, Sir Edward (1788-1883)

Scope and Content

The items in this collection are concerned with ornithology. WMS/Amer.109 is a copy of part of William Bartram's work on North American birds, while WMS/Amer.110-111 comprise Sabine's own observations, respectively on the Niagara frontier of Canada and in the Arctic during Parry's 1819-1820 expedition in the Hecla .

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Sabine was born in 1788 and joined the Royal Artillery in 1803. While stationed on the Niagara frontier of Canada he began his studies into natural history, which were eventually to encompass ornithology, meteorology and the study of terrestrial magnetism. The latter study was his particular specialism and led to his attachment to the Arctic expeditions of John Ross (1777-1856) in the Isabella (1818) and Edward Parry (1790-1855) in the Hecla (1819-1820). During his long career he rose to be a General in the Royal Artillery, President of the Royal Society, Knight-Commander of the Bath and a member of the informal "Arctic Council" that advised the Admiralty on Polar exploration. He retired from the Army in 1877 and died in 1883.


The items are held in chronological order of composition.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

Purchased at Stevens', London, 1931 (accession number 83753).

Other Finding Aids

Described in: Robin Price, An Annotated Catalogue of Medical Americana in the Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1983). Detailed catalogue available at

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

manuscript; bound and loose papers.

Archivist's Note

description compiled by Christopher Hilton based upon those in the Library's published finding aid by Robin Price. Biographical information from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Separated Material

The Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University holds a journal of Sabine, 1818-1819. Further holdings of Sabine's later papers are kept by numerous repositories in the United Kingdom, including the British Library, Cambridge University Library, the Public Record Office, Royal Institution of Great Britain, Royal Society and University College London. Researchers should refer to the National Register of Archives, Historical Manuscripts Commission for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Related Material

The Wellcome Library holds MSS.7404 and 7486, collections of material relating to Polar explorers, containing some letters by Sabine.


WMS/Amer.109 comprises a copy of part of W. Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina (London: J. Johnson, 1792).

Corporate Names

Geographical Names