August Petermann collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Petermann on Arctic exploration

Administrative / Biographical History

August [Augustus] Heinrich Petermann was born on 18 April 1822 at Bleicherode, near Nordhausen, Germany. In 1839, he entered the Geographical Art-School in Potsdam where he specialized in cartography, and in 1845 was invited to Edinburgh to assist Dr. A Keith Johnston on an English edition of Berghaus' Physical Atlas. Moving to London in 1847, he pursued his career as a geographer and cartographer, advising on preparations for expeditions to Africa and to the Arctic, including the search expeditions for Sir John Franklin's missing Northwest Passage Expedition. In 1854, Petermann became director of the Geographical Institute of Justus Perthes in Gotha, Germany, shortly afterwards becoming editor of the well-known Geographische Mittheilungen. He was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London in 1860. Petermann was fund-raiser and organizer of the German Exploring Expedition of 1868 (leader Karl Koldewey), and the German Exploration Expedition, 1869-1870 (leader Karl Koldewey), believing that 'an open polar sea' would allow ships to penetrate toward the North Pole from east Greenland. He took his own life on 25 September 1878 at Gotha.

Published work Die erste deutsche Nordpolar-Expedition in Jahre 1868 (German) by Karl Koldewey and Augustus Petermann, Justus Perthes Gotha (1993) SPRI Library Shelf (3)91(08)[1868] The search for Franklin. A suggestion submitted to the British public by Augustus Petermann, Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans London (1852) SPRI Library Shelf (41)91(091)[1847-1859 Franklin search] Bound Pamphlets


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society volume 1 number 2 (1879) p133-134 and Histria and 1911 encyclopaedia

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible