Robert Morrison Papers

Scope and Content

Correspondence and papers, c.1817-1958, of and relating to Robert Morrison and his missionary work, translations, and life in China and Malacca, including three letter books of Thomas Fisher, 1824-1836, largely comprising copy letters from Fisher in Hoxton to Morrison in Canton and Morrison's replies, and also including correspondence between Fisher and John Robert Morrison, Fisher's papers relating to memoirs of Robert Morrison, and various cuttings and inserts; manuscript translation by William Milne, 1814, of a Chinese catechism compiled and printed at Canton by Morrison (1811-1812); undated [early 19th century] copy of Morrison's domestic memoir, written in 1824, including references to his family; Morrison's grant of power of attorney, 1826; manuscript containing copies [1832] of various letters from Morrison, 1809-1832; examples of texts printed at Morrison's press, 1831 and undated; publications of Morrison, including a discourse given at Hoxton Academy (1825), pamphlet on Chinese language and literature, Chinese Miscellany (1825), and manuscript of the same; papers relating to the Anglo-Chinese College, Malacca, comprising a deed, 1820, printed prospectus, c1820, and reports, 1823-1836 (incomplete series); copies of The Indo-Chinese Gleaner, 1821, and The Evangelist and Miscellanea Sinica, 1833; papers relating to Morrison, 1934-1958, including correspondence, typescripts and press cuttings, and papers relating to Morrison's Chinese Library and Language Institution, 1825-1835.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born near Morpeth, Northumberland, England, 1782; grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; following a rudimentary education, apprenticed to his father as a last and boot-tree maker; joined the Presbyterian church, 1798; decided to prepare for missionary work; studied at Hoxton Academy (later Highbury College), London, 1803; studied at the Missionary Academy, Gosport, Hampshire, 1804; appointed by the London Missionary Society (LMS) and studied medicine, astronomy and Chinese in London, 1805; ordained and sailed via Philadelphia and New York to Canton, 1807; pioneering Protestant missionary to China, though he saw few conversions himself; married Mary Morton (1791-1821), daughter of an East India Company surgeon, in Macau, 1809; became translator to the East India Company's factory in Canton, securing a legal basis for residence and a means of supporting himself, 1809; completed the translation of the New Testament into Chinese, 1813; it was printed, 1814; viewed with hostility by Chinese officials; baptised the first Protestant Chinese Christian, 1814; served as translator on Lord Amherst's abortive embassy to Peking (Beijing), 1816-1817; returned to Canton, 1817; on the completion of his Anglo-Chinese dictionary, received the degree of Doctor of Divinity, University of Glasgow, 1817; with William Milne (1785-1822) founded the Anglo-Chinese College, Malacca, for training missionaries in the Far East, 1818; with Milne, completed the translation of the Bible, 1819; visited Malacca, 1823; travelled to England, 1823-1824; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1824; helped to establish the short-lived Language Institution in London; ordained the first Chinese native pastor, 1825; married Eliza Armstrong (1795-1874), 1825; left England and returned to Canton, 1826; died at Canton, 1834. Publications include: Dictionary of the Chinese Language (1815-1823); Grammar of the Chinese Language (1815); Chinese Bible and numerous Chinese tracts, translations, and works on philology. His son from his first marriage, John Robert Morrison (1814-1843), succeeded his father at the East India Company and became secretary to the Hong Kong government.

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the London Missionary Society by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1973.


Originals held in CWM/LMS/China/Personal/Boxes 1-3 (N.B. Box 3 now in 3 parts a,b & c)

Alternative Form Available

Published on microfiche by IDC Publishers

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); LMS Register of Missionaries, ed James Sibree; National Register of Archives.


Custodial History

The papers were deposited with the London Missionary Society and form part of the special series of personal papers of individual LMS missionaries and officers. Includes some private gifts and donations.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including letters from individual missionaries, among them Morrison (Ref: CWM/LMS South China Incoming Correspondence, CWM/LMS Ultra Ganges (Malacca) Incoming Correspondence Box 2); his candidate's papers (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidates' Papers Box 12 No 12); a photograph of a drawing of Morrison and a note from him, 1824 (Ref: CWM/LMS China Photographs Box 3 File 9); various portraits of Morrison (Ref: CWM/LMS Missionary Portraits Box 4). SOAS also holds a photocopy of a drawing of Morrison (Ref: CIM/PP Box 20 File 222) and the second edition of his translation of the New Testament (Ref: CIM Box 22); a biography of Morrison, 1960s, among the papers of Sir Alwyne Ogden (Ref: PP MS 47 Box 12 File 111); papers relating to his library, 1916-1926 (Ref: MS 226830 SOAS Library Book Exchange passim). Morrison's collection of several thousand Chinese books was bequeathed to University College London and later passed to the School of Oriental and African Studies.