Papers of James Frederick Schon

Scope and Content

This collection comprises papers of James Frederick Schon, CMS missionary, particularly concerning his translation work. It includes letters he received from CMS headquarters, from native clergy in West Africa and from colleagues and friends. It also includes a translation of the gospel of St Matthew into Hausa

Administrative / Biographical History

James Frederick Schon (b. c. 1802) of Ober Weiler, Baden, Germany attended the Basel Seminary and, in 1831, the Church Missionary Society College. He was ordained a deacon in 1831 and priest in 1832 when he went to Sierra Leone. He accompanied the first Niger Expedition 1841. His connection with the CMS ceased in 1853 after 20 years service. He was renowned for his African linguistic work, particularly in Hausa, and he continued to be engaged in this work after ceasing to be a missionary. He was the author of numerous works including Journal of the Niger Expedition (1842); Vocabulary and Elements of Grammar of the Hausa Language (1843); Translations of Genesis, Exodus, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles into the Hausa Language (1857-1861); Grammar of the Hausa Language (1862); Dictionary of the Hausa Language (1876). In 1848 he became chaplain to the Melville Hospital, Chatham. In 1877 he was awarded the Volney Prize for his linguistic work and in 1884 received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. He died at Chatham 30 March 1889.

Schon married Anne Elizabeth Nylander in 1835 who died in Sierra Leone 5 Nov 1837. In 1839 he married Cordelia Irving who died the following year. On 5 February 1841 he married Catherine White (ne Drake), the widow of James White CMS missionary. Catherine survived her husband dying 26 Oct 1892. One daughter, Annie Catherine married Edward Thomas Higgens, CMS missionary in Ceylon, in 1858.

Reference: Register of missionaries (clerical, lay & female) and native clergy from 1804 to 1904 ( Church Missionary Society, 1905 ).


This collection forms part of the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers. It is arranged into one series: Family Papers.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Presented to the CMS by a member of the Schon family in 1948; transferred on permanent loan to the Special Collections Department by the CMS in the 1980s.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Related Material

The Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers includes another collection of papers of James Frederick Schon, including correspondence and the incomplete original of Schon's journal of the first Niger expedition in 1841 (GB 150 CMS/ACC728). The Special Collections Department also holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 150 CMS), which includes papers relating to Schon's service as a CMS missionary.

The University of Birmingham, Special Collections Department and the Orchard Learning Resources Centre hold a rich collection of archives relating to missions, charities and other religious and ecclesiastical organisations and individuals.