William Parker Snow collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material relating to the British Franklin Search Expedition, 1850 (leader Charles Forsyth), correspondence by Snow and papers relating to the publication of Voyage of the Prince Albert and the search for the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 18345-1848 (leader Sir John Franklin)

Administrative / Biographical History

William Parker Snow was born on 27 November 1817 at Poole. He was educated at the Royal Naval School in Greenwich and was apprenticed in a merchant vessel at the age of thirteen. After travelling in Australia and the South Seas, he returned to Britain where he joined the Royal Navy, later obtaining a discharge after saving a companion from a shark. He then embarked on several unsuccessful business ventures, including managing a hotel in Australia and a club in Italy, before becoming more involved in literary pursuits, transcribing the first two volumes of History of England for W B Macaulay.

On his return from a year in America, Snow was appointed clerk in the schooner Prince Albert on the British Franklin Search Expedition (leader Charles Forsyth) in 1850, sponsored by Lady Jane Franklin and by public subscription to search for Franklin's missing expedition in the region of Boothia Peninsula and Prince Regent Inlet. His account of the expedition was published in 1851.

In 1854, Snow was placed in command of the Patagonian Missionary Society's tender Allen Gardiner, employed in carrying missionaries and their stores between Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands and different mission stations on the mainland, but was later dismissed for not following the Society's instructions. On his return to Britain, he published A two years cruise off Tierra del Fuego...A narrative of life in the Southern Seas, but the profits from his book were wasted in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the Society which left him penniless. Travelling to America where he declined a commission in the Confederate Navy, he worked for several years for booksellers in New York, publishing and editing several books. On his return to Britain, he spent the rest of his life engaged in literary projects, compiling volumes of indexes of Arctic voyages and biographical records of Arctic explorers. He died on 12 March 1895.


The collection is split into three sub-fonds comprising of expedition material, correspondence and papers respectively

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 'William Parker Snow' by Ian Stone in The Polar Record volume 19 number 119 May 1978 p163-165 and Dictionary of National Biography volume 53, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1898) and British polar exploration and research a historical and medallic record with biographies 1818-1999 by Lieutenant Colonel Neville W Poulsom and Rear Admiral John A L Myres, Savannah Publications London (2000) SPRI Library Shelf 737.2

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