William Grant collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Grant to Benjamin Leigh Smith regarding the British Exploring Expedition, 1880 (led by Smith) to Svalbard and the Russian Arctic

Administrative / Biographical History

William John Alexander Grant was born on 1 May 1851. He was educated at Harrow and at Merton College, Oxford, where he learned the art of photography. In 1876, he was appointed photographer on the British Relief Expedition (leader Allen Young), instructed by the Admiralty to land dispatches in the region of Baffin Bay for George Strong Nares of the British Arctic Expedition, 1875-1876. Between 1878 and 1883, Grant made a further four voyages to the Arctic in the Dutch schooner Willem Barents, and sailed in the British yachts Eira and Kara. During this period, he photographed much of the Arctic between the west coast of Greenland and Novaya Zemlya, later exhibiting his photographs at the Royal Photographic Society in London, of which he was a fellow. He made no further voyages to the Arctic but visited Egypt in 1894 and made a thousand-mile voyage up the Amazon River shortly before his death. He died on 10 March 1935 at Cullompton, Devon.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically

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 'Photography in the Arctic, 1876-1884 the work of W J A Grant' by Willem F J Morzer Bruyns in Polar Record volume 39 number 209 April 2003 p123-130

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