Papers of James Frederick Schon

Scope and Content

This collection comprises papers of James Frederick Schon, CMS missionary in Sierra Leone, 1832-1847, together with associated Schon and Buxton family papers and correspondence. It includes the incomplete original of Schon's journal of the first Niger expedition in 1841; nine letters he wrote to his third wife Catherine, 1840-1842; letters received by Schon, one of which, dated 1843, is from Samuel Crowther, the remainder relate largely to his linguistic work and include letters concerning his award of the Volney prize, 1875-1886. Other family papers include some letters to and from Catherine Schon, 1857-1865; and letters to and from their daughter Emily Schon. Many of these are from members of the Buxton family, who included Thomas Fowell Buxton, a Vice-President of the CMS.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Frederick Schon, (Church Missionary Society missionary in Sierra Leone 1832-1847) was renowned for his linguistic work, particularly in Hausa for which he produced a dictionary (1876) and grammar (1862). He accompanied the first Niger Expedition in 1841. 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 Elizabeth Catherine White (ne Drake), the widow of James White CMS missionary 1839-1840. Catherine survived her husband, dying 26 Oct 1892. One daughter, Annie Catherine, married Edward Thomas Higgens, CMS missionary in Ceylon, in 1858.

Reference: Finding aid to the collection


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

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased by the University of Birmingham, April 1995 and added to the Church Missionary Society Unofficial Papers.

Other Finding Aids

Please see online catalogue for further details.

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 Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.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.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

The Special Collections Department holds the Church Missionary Society Archive, the official archive of the society (GB 150 CMS), which includes papers relating to Schon and his service as a CMS missionary. There are also other papers relating to Schon's translation work in the Church Missionary Society's Unofficial Papers (GB 150 CMS/ACC78).

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.