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Description found in Archives
Fonds consists of
1. George Back collection [graphic material]
2. George Back collection [graphic material]
3. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080199-7)
4. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080200-4)
5. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080207-1)
6. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080206-3)
7. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080205-5)
8. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080204-7)
9. George Back collection [graphic material] (120-080203-9)
10. George Back Collection [graphic material] (119-080159-0)
11. George Back collection [graphic material]
12. George Back collection [graphic material] (121-080340-2)
13. George Back collection [graphic material]
14. George Back collection [graphic material]
15. George Back collection [graphic material]
16. George Back collection [graphic material]
17. George Back collection [graphic material]
18. George Back collection [graphic material]
19. National Archives watercolour collection [graphic material] (1997-02027-0)
Place of creation
1 sketchbook (1819-1821): 93 leaves, including 33 watercolours, 3 drawings, 54 maps, and 3 pages of inscriptions; watercolour, pen and ink, pencil; 11.5 x 18.0 cm.
110 prints: engraving, aquatint, etching, some hand coloured, lithograph; various dimensions.
0.1 cm of textual records (2 p.).
2 microfilm reels negative and positive.
1 sketchbook (1821-1822): 83 folios and interleaving containing 33 watercolours, 3 drawings, 45 maps, and 19 pages of inscriptions; watercolour, pen and ink, pencil; 11.5 x 18.0 cm.
1 sketchbook, 1826: 3 watercolours, 46 drawings; pencil, watercolour, pen and ink; 13.0 x 21.0 cm.
1 sketchbook, 1825-1826: 65 watercolours; watercolour, watercolour over pencil; 13.0 x 21.0 cm.
1 sketchbook, 1833-1835: 6 watercolours, 37 drawings; watercolour, pencil; 13.0 x 21.0 cm.
11 watercolours: watercolour, pen and ink, pencil; various dimensions.
1 drawing: pencil.
2 reproductions: photogravure; photograph.
Scope and content
Fonds consists of artwork related to various expeditions in which George Back either participated or which he commanded. It consists of sketchbooks, loose images and prints, which were used to illustrate the published accounts of the various voyages. The earliest items are Back's sketchbook of 1818 from the Buchan expedition, but there are also two sketchbooks from the 1819-22 overland expedition led by John Franklin which contain, in addition to artwork, 98 manuscript maps, two sketchbooks from the 1825-1827 expedition to the Arctic, and one sketchbook relating to George Back's 1833-1835 expedition to the Arctic. The latest watercolour dates to ca. 1840 when Back was recuperating in Italy from his last Arctic expedition. Fonds also consists of microfilmed material relating to the career of George Back including journals kept on trips to the Arctic, 1819-1822, 1827-1829, and 1833-1835, as well as meteorological notes, and Eskimo vocabulary, a letterbook 1834-1835, and a few miscellaneous items. This material is located on microfilm reels A-820 and A-821. In addition, there is a letter from George Back to Edward Cooke, a British marine artist, which mentions Cooke's polar scene for the Academy, suggests a visit by Cooke to see Back's picture of an iceberg and the H.M.S. Terror, a ship lost with the Franklin Expedition, painted in 1858.
Conditions of access
Microfilm reel A-820
Microfilm reel A-821
from A-820 to A-821
Artistic material: No restrictions. Physical access through an art archivist.
Originals in container 2 have been withdrawn from circulation. Researchers must use photocopies in container 1.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1994-254 which consist of 2 sketchbooks was acquired with the assistance of Hoechst-Celanese Canada and with a grant from the Department of Heritage through the Cultural Property Import and Export Act.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1997-280 which consists of a sketchbook which was acquired with the assistance of a grant from the Department of Heritage through the Cultural Property Import and Export Act.
Textual records A list of the items microfilmed is available. MSS0735 90 (Electronic)
Graphic material The art material has been described at the item-level in MINISIS-ICON database. 90 (Electronic)
Creator / Provenance
Biography / Administrative history
George Back was born in 1796 and joined the Royal Navy as a first-class volunteer in 1808. He was captured the following year, and spent five years as a prisoner in Verdun, France, where he studied mathematics, French, and drawing. He returned to active service in 1814, serving as a midshipman on board HMS Akbar on the Halifax station. In 1818, he volunteered for Arctic exploration service under Commanders Buchan and John Ross, and was appointed midshipman on board HMS Trent, which with the HMS Dorothea attempted the Northeast Passage via Spitsbergen and over the North Pole to Bering Strait. Although the attempt failed, the expedition achieved a record latitude of 82 degrees 34 minutes N. Back's commanding officer Lieutenant John Franklin was impressed by his ability, and asked Back to join his overland expedition (1819-1822) to chart the northern coast of Canada from the mouth of the Coppermine River to Repulse Bay. The expedition spent three years on its efforts, during which Back carried out extensive exploratory work, and recorded hundreds of sketches of Arctic scenery, flora, fauna, and peoples.
In 1825, he joined Franklin's second overland expedition (1825-27), this time to explore the Arctic coast to the east and west of the Mackenzie River, and if possible to join up with the sea expedition led by Captain Frederick Beechey. Again Back recorded many sketches of the expedition, a number of which were published in the account of the expedition. In 1833, Back led an exploratory party (1833-35) down the Great Fish River (later renamed the Back in his honour) to further chart the Arctic coast. In 1836, he led an expedition by sea on board HMS Terror to trace the coast of the Polar Sea between Repulse Bay and Point Turnagain, the furthest point reached in Franklin's first overland expedition. The trials suffered by Back on this expedition incapacitated him for six years, and ended his active career as an Arctic explorer. He published a "Narrative of the Arctic Land Expedition to the Mouth of the Great Fish River", 1836 and a "Narrative of an Expedition in the ship H.M.S. Terror", 1838. Knighted in 1839, and promoted Admiral in 1876, Back maintained an intense interest in Arctic exploration for the rest of his life. Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. I (Oxford University Press); Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. X (1871-1880) (University of Toronto Press, 1972).
Availability of other formats note
The copy negative number of the item digitized is C-145920 (colour transp.) (ICON)
Location of originals note
1. Arctic region - Discovery and exploration, 1819-1835
2. Edward Cooke [1819-1835]
3. Arctic regions - Exploring expeditions, 1819-1835
4. Franklin Expedition 1858.
5. Arctic regions - Weather, 1819-1835
6. Terror (ship), 1858.
7. Inuktitut language - Canada, 1819-1835.
8. George Back - Diaries, 1819-1835.
9. Meteorology - Observations - Arctic, 1819-1835.
Other system control no.
Related control no.
1. 1921-003 PIC
2. 1939-330 PIC
3. 1955-102 PIC
4. 1955-103 PIC
5. 1955-104 PIC
6. 1955-105 PIC
7. 1955-106 PIC
8. 1979-049 PIC
9. 1991-364 DAP
10. 1992-522 X DAP
11. 1992-523 X DAP
12. 1992-545 X DAP
13. 1992-546 X DAP
14. 1992-547 X DAP
15. 1992-548 DAP
16. 1992-548 X DAP
17. 1992-549 X DAP
18. 1994-254 DAP
19. 1997-280 DAP
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