George Back's sketchbook [graphic material, textual record, cartographic material]
Record Information – Brief1
George Back's sketchbook [graphic material, textual record, cartographic material]Hierarchical level:FileDate:1821-1822.Reference:Box number: BK-005, BK-005, BK-005Type of material:Art, Maps and cartographic material, Textual materialFound in:Archives / Collections and FondsItem ID number:3709422
Record Information – DetailsFile includes:102 lower level description(s)View lower level description(s)Date(s):1821-1822.Place of creation:Northwest TerritoriesAdded country of publication:CanadaExtent:1 sketchbook (33 watercolours, 3 drawings and 23 maps).
Image 18.500 x 11.500 cmLanguage of material:EnglishScope and content:A sketchbook kept by Midshipman George Back (1798-1878) who was a member of the Franklin Overland Expedition to explore the shores of the Arctic Ocean eastwards from the mouth of the Coppermine River in the period 1819-1822. The other Royal Navy officers on the expedition were Captain John Franklin, Midshipman Robert Hood, and surgeon-naturalist Dr. John Richardson. This sketchbook of 82 pages covers the journey from Fort Enterprise up the Coppermine River to the Arctic coast in present-day Kitikmeot, Nunavut and eastward to Point Turnagain (4 June 1821 to 18 Aug 1821). Facing an early fall and failing to make contact with Inuit in the area, the expedition was forced to retreat across the tundra (19 Aug 1821 to Oct 1821); this part of the journey involved the starvation or death of over half of the members of the expedition, with the heavily weighed-down voyageurs of the party suffering most badly. The book also contains sketches from the return journey from Fort Resolution to York Factory (26 May 1822 to 10 Aug 1822). These journeys are not represented in chronological order in Back's cover-to-cover use of the sketchbook.
During this ill-fated expedition, during which eleven of the twenty party members died, Back distinguished himself by rescuing the survivors from near starvation; travelling ahead of the main group with Métis interpreter Pierre St. Germain, Back was able to make contact with the Dene led by Akaitcho and thereby secure food and supplies. Back was promoted to Lieutenant during the course of the expedition, on January 1, 1821. Captain Franklin chose 16 of Back's sketches from this and other sketchbooks kept during the 1819-1822 expedition for publication in his account, Narrative of a Journey to the shores of the Polar Sea in the years 1819, 20, 21 and 22 (London: John Murray, 1823).Provenance:Additional name(s):Biography/Administrative history:Finding aid:Additional information:Physical description note:The sketchbook consists of two leather covers closed by a metal clasp and 82 folios, each measuring 18 x 11.5 cm. There are thirty-three watercolours, three drawings, and 23 maps, often covering both recto and verso pages, included in the sketchbook, which is in good condition. The binding is somewhat worn and part of the spine is missing, but the sewing that holds the sketchbook together is intact. Some of the pages arev loose and no longer physically attached to the sketchbook by the binding, but there is no reason to believe that any pages are missing. The sketches themselves are well-preserved and the colours throughout have suffered very little fading.Custodial history:Family descent to the owner from whom it was purchased in 1994.Citation/reference note:C. Stuart Houston and Ian MacLaren, Arctic Artist: The Journal and Paintings of George Back... (Montréal : McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994); C. Stuart Houston, To the Arctic by Canoe: 1819-1821: the journal and paintings of Robert Hood, midshipman with Franklin (Montreal : Arctic Institute of North America: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1974); C. Stuart Houston, Arctic ordeal : the journal of John Richardson, surgeon-naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822 (Kingston [Ont.] : McGill-Queen's University Press, 1984)Related material:Copies of Franklin's "Narrative... 1819, 20, 21 and 22..." are held in the Rare Book Room of the former National Library of Canada.
Among numerous other manuscripts pertaining to the 1819-1822 expedition, Back's letter book and rough journal are now on deposit at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England. Copies of these journals are available under certain restrictions on LAC microfilm (A-820 and A-821 respectively).
This is one of five separate sketchbooks owned by Library and Archives Canada done by George Back during various Arctic expeditions (two sketchbooks from the 1819-1822 expedition; two sketchbooks from the 1825-1827 expedition, and one sketchbook from the 1833-1835 expedition.) LAC also owns single-sheet watercolours from various sources, as well as many single-sheet prints.Source:Private
Credit: Library and Archives Canada; acquired with the assistance of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Cultural Property Export and Import Act, and with the aid of a grant from Hoechst-Celanese Canada Ltd.
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