From Exploration to Publication: The Evolution of a 19th-Century Arctic Narrative


  • I.S. MacLaren



Back, Sir George, 1796-1878, Barrow, Sir John, Exploration, Explorers, Franklin, 1786-1847, History, Murray, John II, 1778-1843, John III, 1808-1892, John, d. 1793, Publishing, Terror (Ship), Canadian Arctic, Northwest Passage


Relations between explorers of early Canada and their English publishers are sufficiently complex as to call into question the customary straightforward equation that readers draw between explorers' eyewitness experience and the narrative account of them, issued some time after their return to England. Captain Cook's first published narrative is the notorious case in point. Narratives of exploration played important roles in the establishment of imperial claims. The case of the publishing house of John Murray, good friend of Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary to the Admiralty for much of the early 19th century, offers an examination of much of the discursive shaping of the Canadian Arctic during the British Navy's search for a Northwest Passage. Archival materials pertaining to two of Murray's books, from John Franklin's first Arctic Land Expedition (1819-22) and from George Back's voyage to Hudson Bay (1836-37), place on view the process by which narratives of exploration evolved through the authorization of them by the Admiralty (Sir John Barrow) and the preparation of them by a publisher (John Murray) into published commodities.

Key words: George Back, John Barrow, John Franklin, John Murray Publishers, publishing history, HMS Terror, Northwest Passage