Matthew Maury collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of material which relates to the United States Franklin Search Expedition, 1850-1851 (leader Edwin De Haven), this expedition is also sometimes called the First Grinnell Expedition after its principle sponsor.

Administrative / Biographical History

Matthew Fontaine Maury was born on 14 January 1806 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. In 1825, he entered the United States Navy as midshipman, serving in a succession of vessels in Europe, South America and on a voyage of circumnavigation. After suffering a serious accident in 1839, Maury spent a long convalescence publishing articles on sea navigation and political essays advocating naval reforms.

In 1842, he was appointed superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments of the Navy Department in Washington, devoting much of his time to the compilation of observations of winds and currents at sea and publishing charts and sailing directions. At an international maritime conference at Brussels in 1853, his system of recording the oceanographic data of naval vessels and merchant marine ships was adopted by the leading maritime states and brought him international prominence and numerous honours. His influential textbook was published in 1855.

Resigning from the United States Navy in 1861, Maury was commissioned in the Confederate Navy, travelling to England in 1862 to purchase and outfit vessels for the Confederacy. He returned to the United States in 1868 to accept the chair of meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He died on 1 February 1873.

Published work The physical geography of the sea, and its meteorology. Being a reconstruction and enlargement of the eighth edition of The physical geography of the sea by Matthew Fontaine Maury Samson Low, Son & Co. London (1860) SPRI Library Shelf 551.46


The collection 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 'Matthew Fontaine Maury, 1806-1873', by John Leighly in Geographers, bio bibliographical studies volume 1 1977 p59-63 SPRI Library Shelf Pam 92[Maury] and Cartage

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